Distinctive anthers with apical appendage; from Engler & Prantl's Die Natürlichen Pflanzenfamilien IV 3b fig. 10 (1897).

Image by David Besa from Wikimedia Commons

Detail of flowers from image by David Besa from Wikimedia Commons

Distribution map generated from Australia's Virtual Herbarium.


Solanum lycopersicum L. Sp. Pl. 1: 185 (1753) 

Lycopersicon lycopersicum (L.) H.Karsten, Deut. Fl.  966 (1882).

T: ‘Habitat in America calidiore’; lecto: herb. Linn. 248.16 (LINN), microfiche AD. See the Linnaean Plant Name Typification Project.

Lycopersicon esculentum Mill., Gard. Dict. Abr. Ed. 1768, nom. cons. This is the  conserved name for this species if it is treated as a species of Lycopersicon. 


Short-lived herb, 50–150 cm tall, often densely pubescent, aromatic.  

Leaves ovate in outline, the lamina to 30 cm long, deeply pinnatisect with 7–9 major lobes; petiole 2–5 cm long.  

Inflorescence raceme- or cyme-like. Calyx-lobes narrowly lanceolate, 4–10 mm long. Corolla to 25 mm diam.; lobes narrowly triangular, to 10 mm long, often reflexed. Anthers 5–10 mm long, including sterile appendage 2–3 mm long. Ovary glabrous or pubescent.  

Berry globular or depressed-globular, 10–20 mm diam., red at maturity. Seeds 2–3 mm long, pilose, yellow-grey.

Distribution and ecology

In Australia a spontaneous escape from cultivation, recorded from eastern Qld, central coast of N.S.W., central S.A. and far northern W.A.

Originally from South America where its origins are obscure, now spread around the world. Wild specimens are not known but represent escapes from cultivation (see Solanaceae Source for further discussion).

Common name



Tomato belongs to a group of about 10 species of western south America andGalapagos Islands that are distinguished by having appendaged anthers and previously assigned to Lycopersicon. Recent DNA sequencing has firmly placed them back in Solanum  and their relationships are with subg. Potatoe.



The numerous cultivated forms are usually larger, the corolla 6–9-lobed, ovary multilocular and fruit 5–10 cm diam.

There is an enormous literature on the cultivated tomato: see for example

·         C. H. Muller, A revision of the genus Lycopersicon, U.S. Dept. Agric. Misc. Publ. no. 382 (1940);

·         L. C. Luckwill, The genus Lycopersicon, Aberdeen Univ. Studies no. 120 (1943);

·         C. M. Rick, The tomato, Sci. Amer. 239: 66–76 (1978). 

·         bibliography and the early history and use of the tomato may be found in G. A. McCue, The history and use of the tomato: an annotated bibiography. Ann. Missouri Bot. Gard. 39 (1952) 289–348,

·         and a more recent popular account is that by A. Smith, The Tomato in America: Early history, culture & cookery. Univ. South Carolina Press, 1994.

However there are also numerous websites which will serve the same purpose.

Selected specimens

W.A.: Near Kalumburu, D. E. Symon 7127 (AD, PERTH). S.A.: SW of Lake Eyre, D. E. Symon 11274 (AD). Qld: Conway Range, N. Byrnes 3849 & J. Clarkson (BRI). N.S.W.: Broughton Pass, 9 May 1951, L. A. S. Johnson (NSW).

From the web

Further information, images and links for this species can be found on the Solanaceae Source site.

There is further information on the tomato clade at the sol genomics network page at

A great deal of background information on the tomato and its relatives can also be found at the site and on the Tomato Genetics Research Centre site at the University of California, Davis.

A more popular account of the history of the tomato and its use in the United States can also be found at

S. lycopersicum as a weed in the Pacific is treated on the Pacific Island Ecosystems at Risk (PIER) site under Lycopersicon esculentum.

A comprehensive fact sheet on S. lycopersicum in Africa, with images, can be found on the PROTA (Plant Resources of Tropical Africa) site.

Most Solanum species are buzz pollinated and there have been pressures to introduce the European bumblebee to perform this task for tomato crops in Australia. An article advocating the use of a native Australian bee for this purpose can be s een at