Monday, February 9, 2009

Botany of the Tomato

The common tomato of our gardens belongs to the natural order Solanaceae and the genus Lycopersicum. The name from lykos, a wolf, and persica, a peach, is given it because of the supposed aphrodisiacal qualities, and the beauty of the fruit. The genus comprises a few species of South American annual or short-lived perennial, herbaceous, rank-smelling plants in which the many branches are spreading, procumbent, or feebly ascendent and commonly 2 to 6 feet in length, though under some conditions, particularly in the South and in California, they grow much longer. They are covered with resinous viscid secretions and are round, soft, brittle and hairy, when young, but become furrowed, angular, hard and almost woody with enlarged joints, when old. The leaves are irregularly alternate, 5 to 15 inches long, petioled, odd pinnate, with seven to nine short-stemmed leaflets, often with much smaller and stemless ones between them. The larger leaflets are sometimes entire, but more generally notched, cut, or even divided, particularly at the base.

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