The strange case of tomatoes on potato plants
by Alan Reed
Jun 21, 2006 | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Howard "Tommy" Skinner shows one of the potato plants with tomato-like fruit.
Howard "Tommy" Skinner shows one of the potato plants with tomato-like fruit.
“I’ve been growing potatoes all my life, and it is the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen,” said South Road resident and gardener Howard “Tommy” Skinner. His Kennyback potato plants had what appeared to be tomatoes growing on them.

Skinner said that he was retired from hanging light poles, and sees gardening as a hobby now. At his country home, he grows corn, green beans, grapes, pears and other fruits and vegetables, in addition to potatoes, tomatoes and what appeared to be a hybrid of the two.

Potatoes (solanum tuberosum) and tomatoes (solanum lycopersicum) are of the same scientific genus, leading so several theories about cross-pollination, grafting and hybridization to produce a single plant capable of producing both foodstuffs.

The website cites one case of producing just such a hybrid. “Melchers, F (1905-1997) - Creator of the first vital tomato-potato hybrid through cell fusion.” Could Skinner have replicated the experiment, or maybe planted some of the hybrid plants? Perhaps the explanation came from a patch of normal tomatoes a hundred feet away, and bees cross-pollinated the potato plants, in the same way that a horse and a donkey (also of the same genus) produce a mule for offspring.

The fruit on the potato plants were approximately 1.5 centimeters in diameter, and green. The internal seed structures resembled a tomato strongly. They grew in large clusters on the plant.

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