Can tomatoes cross pollinate?

Marlin Burkholder glenecofarm at
Fri Apr 19 03:20:09 EDT 2002

I customarily save seed from several heirloom tomato varieties I grow here. I normally grow two to three potato leafed varieties along with other normal leafed varieties.  I like to plant tomatoes in long rows stretching the full length of designated garden plots.  I plant each variety in it's own section of row, but I use fruit color and shape, and leaf shape variations to advantage to mark the transition from one variety to another within the row.  For the past two seasons in sucession  I have noticed some "off types" appearing from some off my saved seed. Last year I noticed a few "normal" leaf types in my "Tiffen Mennonites" (a potato leaf variety). Since I had gotton my original TM tomato seed stock from a place called 'Totally Tomatos" and I have had past experience getting "off type" seed from them, I assumed that I had thrown a few leftover seeds from the previous year's seed pack in with my saved seeds, so I threw out the oddballs.  Now this year I am seeing not only normal leaf plants in my TMs, but I have also seen some "potato leaf plants in my "Striped Germans", a normal leafed variety.  I also found last year at least two plants in my SGs with a predominately pink color and a small amount of yellow marbling in contrast to the normal predominately yellow with a small amount of pink marbling characteristic with this variety.  I'm designating the two variations within this variety YP German and PY German to separate the color distributions. I also recall several years ago a few of my "Blossers" yielding a somewhat pointed fruit suggestive of a possible cross with "Oxhearts I was growing at the time.  I'm pretty sure I took the necessary precautions to avoid getting varieties mixed up while I was saving seed.  I'm really beginning to wonder if there is some crossing of pollen where one variety meets another in the row.  Perhaps I should have made sure I saved seed from the middle of each variety section.

Instead of throwing out my off type plants, I'm thinking of planting them in their own section this year and marking them as such so I can observe their fruiting.

I have always thought of tomatoes as a self pollinating plant when grown under natural conditions (no deliberate hand cross pollination).  Has anyone else seen things like this happen in tomatoes?

Marlin Burkholder
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