Saturday, June 30, 2012

Porcupine tomato

I still remember the first time I saw a porcupine tomato (Solanum pyracanthon or Solanum pyracanthum). The vivid orange spines looked so vicious but at the same time irresistible. I simply had to touch them and when I did, I was surprised. As lethal as the spines looked, they were actually fairly soft.

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I didn’t buy that plant because it was expensive, but this spring I found an inexpensive 4-inch seedling at Annie’s Annuals in Richmond. It’s easily tripled in size since April. Like its relative, the edible tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) it loves the heat.

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From a distance it doesn’t much look like a tomato relative, but the flowers, although purple, are quite similar. And apparently so is the fruit, but mine hasn’t set any fruit yet.

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As nice as the purple flowers are, the real reason for wanting this Madagascar native in your garden are the spines. There’s no other plant I know that combines velvety soft leaves with such long spines.

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According to a fellow customer I spoke with Annie’s Annuals, porcupine tomato can grow as tall as 6 ft. in one season if given regular water. She said her plant, located in a pot next to her front door, was a huge hit at Halloween last year. I can see why!

Planted in the ground, it can become invasive so keep it confined to a pot.

1 comment:

  1. Those are some of the most beautiful spikes I've seen! I'm not sure that it's enough to make me plant it though... maybe. Love that last photo!

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