Seeds Sprouting Inside a Tomato

By Carol Quish for UConn Extension

 

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Seeds germinating inside tomato, J. Copes photo.

Have you ever cut into a tomato and found white squiggly looking things inside? These are not worms or aliens that made their way to the center, but rather seeds of the fruit that have begun germinating. It is called Vivipary, Latin for Live Birth. It is the term for plants that begin growing while still inside or attached to the mother plant. It is common in certain varieties of tomatoes, peppers, apple, pears, and some citrus.

 

This tomato probably was a bit older and sat on the counter for a while in a warm kitchen. Vivipary happens when the hormone controlling the seed dormancy is exhausted or runs out, letting the seed grow in the moist environment inside the fruit. This warm, moist environment is perfect for germinating seed to grow. If the tomato were left uncut in the warm conditions, the new plant sprout would eventually poke through skin of the now decomposing tomato. These new plants can be potted up and grow into a large tomato plant and even produce tomatoes. The tomato will not be a clone of the mother plant, because it grew from a seed that had to be pollinated by another tomato flower, introducing new parent genes into the seed that will produce the new plant. The tomatoes off of the plant are entirely edible and quite possibly delicious. Check out the seeds inside your fruit or vegetable the next time you slice into it.

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The same tomato, a few days later.