The Hidden Half


Cultivated tomato, Solanum lycopersicum, is a member of the nightshade) family (Solanaceae of plants. Many of the plants in this family are well known to produce potent alkaloids, some of which are highly toxic (e.g. Deadly Nightshade).  Luckily for all tomato lovers the fruit does not contain any toxins.

The wild relative of modern day tomato, Solanum pimpinellifolium, is native to Peru and southern Ecuador, South America and produces tiny red pea sized fruits very different to those of what we are familiar with in the local market.

Image showing the root structure of a tomato plant.

Although tomatoes are eaten as vegetables they are botanically a fruit.

The world’s largest tomato plant was grown in the green houses of the Walt Disney park in Florida and could produce 32,000 golf ball size tomatoes that were served in the parks restaurants.

3D Root Architecture

This video shows the root development of a tomato plant in a soil column at the early growth stage of 14 days. The roots are structured around one main taproot with the development of first and second order roots in addition to a high number of lateral roots.


Root Anatomy

The image to the left is a cross section, taken from the middle of the tap root of the tomato. The image was acquired using a confocal microscope.

The cross section reveals a central area known as the stele which contains xylem (yellow rings) that transport water.  Cells (cyan) located on opposite sides of the xylem are termed phloem which transport nutrients.   

The remaining cells inside the stele are known as procambium which are responsible for new vascular growth. 

Image of tomato root anatomy.
The stele xylem, phloem and procambium are then encircled by a layer of cells termed pericycle from which lateral roots originate.  The next layer termed the endodermis are interconnected by the water proof casparian strip (thin red strips).  Beyond the endodermis exist multiple layers of cells collectively known as the cortex. The outermost layer of cells (in red) is known as the epidermis.

The Hidden Half

Hounsfield Facility (A03)
Sutton Bonington Campus
University of Nottingham
Loughborough, Leics, U.K.
LE12 5RD

Telephone: +44(0)115 951 6786