The cultivated tomato, Solanum lycopersicum, is grown worldwide for its fruits.
Tomatoes are native to South America, but were brought to Europe sometime in the 1500s, where they soon became popular and were exported around the world (Eu-Sol: Tomato history).
For a long time tomatoes were known by the name Lycopersicon esculentum, but recent work by scientists has shown that they are really part of the genus Solanum - as Linnaeus recognised when he first described the species. Today scientists and plant breeders all use the name Solanum lycopersicum for the cultivated tomato.
Tomatoes have divided leaves with glandular hairs that have a distinctive “tomatoe-y” smell. This comes from drops of fluid exuded by the cells on the tops of these hairs.
Tomato flowers are bright yellow and have at their centre a bottle-shaped cone of stamens where pollen is held. Tomato flowers are pollinated by bees, who grasp the anther cone with their legs and “buzz” to release pollen, which they then collect by scraping it off their bodies. Bumblebees are common tomato pollinators in temperate regions.
The fruit is green when it is immature, but when it is ripe becomes brightly colored. Most of the common types of tomato have red fruit, but the fruits can be yellow, orange, red, purple or multi-colored. Plant breeders select different fruit shapes and colours and cross the plants to create the many cultivated types we grow in our gardens (Eu-Sol: Tomato core collection).
For a detailed species description (taxonomy complete with synonymy), visit Solanaceae Source.
Discover where the wild relatives of tomotoes originate from, the types of habitat that tomatoes grow in and the wide range of areas they are known from.
While Solanum lycopersicum is currently not a threatened species, find out what is being done to preserve other varieties of tomato that are disappearing from cultivation.
Get reference material for Solanum lycopersicum (cultivated tomato).
Fruits of Solanum lycopersicum.
Large-fruited tomatoes in a farmer's market in Madison, Wisconsin, USA
Many cultivated forms of tomatoes are fasciated, or lobed.
Flower of Solanum lycopersicum.