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Can A Tomato Plant Pollinate A Tomatillo

The world of cross-pollination is exciting. You may be surprised by what vegetables can cross pollinate to create all sorts of exciting and unique vegetables. For example, kale and Brussels sprouts cross-pollinate to make a sort of baby kale (kalelettes). Broccoflower is what we call broccoli and cauliflower cross-pollination. The kiwi is a relatively new fruit from a berry plant in China. Cross-pollination is caused by pollen being spread around by birds, bees, the wind, or mixed on purpose. 

Tomatoes are known for cross-pollinating heavily with other tomatoes, though they don’t cross-pollinate with anything else. This is because they usually self pollinate before their flowers open. This would mean that they cannot pollinate a tomatillo. 

This article will discuss the wonderful world of cross-pollination and more about why tomatoes and tomatillos can’t and won’t cross-pollinate. 

Can Tomatillos Cross-Pollinate With Tomatoes?

Although tomatillos are close relatives of tomatoes, they are a different genus, and because of that, they cannot cross-pollinate. Tomatoes and tomatillos are both nightshades. Sometimes you will see cross-pollination of a different species of the same genus, but different nightshades can’t cross-pollinate. 

What Is Crossbreeding? 

Crossbreeding is taking the pollen from two different plants and combining it to make a new plant with traits from both parent plants. 

Any two plants from the same genus can usually crossbreed. Crossbreeding has helped farmers and scientists create different fruit that exceeded so many expectations and blown our minds. Crossbreeding has created produce that can be disease resistant, pest resistant, produce that can ripen quicker or grow better in drought-stricken areas. Thanks to crossbreeding, we can now do so much more with farming.

What Is The Different Between Crossbreeding and Genetic Modification?

At this point, you may be asking yourself, well, isn’t this crossbreeding just genetic modification or GMO? The answer to this is no; they are different. Plant cross-breeding is always done naturally. It is the natural selection that plants go through and sometimes even do to themselves. GMOs are always mad-made, usually in a laboratory, and involve science on a more molecular scale. 

This is why GMOs get such a bad rap because it’s unnatural. However, although GMOs can sometimes be a bad thing, that’s not always the case. With genetic modification, scientists have created so many resilient fruits and vegetables. Since so many of them are pest resistant, the need for chemical spray has gone drastically. 

How Can you Pollinate a Tomatillo? 

Tomatillos are very poor self-pollinators. They do not have separate male and female flowers. This is what they call a perfect flower. Because of this, tomatillos need at least two different plants in a garden to pollinate. To explain it easily, tomatillos need to cross-pollinate with another tomatillo plant to produce fruit. This is how they do so. 

  1. Having two plants
  • If you have at least two plants of the same kind, it doesn’t have to be the same variety of tomatillo, but if you have at least two tomatillo plants, insects or birds can pollinate them. 
  1. Manual pollinating
  • Take an open flower from one tomatillo plant and touch it to another open flower of a different tomatillo plant. This is considered hand pollination. 

What Is a Perfect Flower?

Flowers with both male and female parts are called perfect flowers. Perfect flowers are also considered bisexual or hermaphroditic. A lot of vegetables are this way, with perfect flowers. However, some have separate female and male parts, like, zucchini, cucumbers, and squash. Those vegetables are known for being the better cross pollinators. 

Can Tomatoes Pollinate Other Plants?

Usually, like tomatillos, most self-pollinators do not crossbreed. However, although they are self-pollinators, tomatoes do crossbreed only with other tomatoes. These are some of the most popular cross-bred tomatoes. 

  1. Sun Gold 
  • Developed by a Japanese breeder in the early 90s, the parents of this tomato are said to be a red cherry and a Brandywine tomato. 
  1. Lemon Boy
  • Released in the mid-’80s, this tomato is known for its delicious taste and vibrant color. A spin-off of the Better Boy tomatoes.
  1. Black Pearl
  • A tasty and resilient cherry tomato, coming from a red cherry tomato. 
  1. Sweet Seedless
  • A tomato without seeds! Made by Burpee and released in 2004, the origins of this tomato have not been made public. 
  1. Steakhouse 
  • These are one of the biggest tomatoes ever bred from the beefsteak tomato, at a whopping 3 pounds a tomato! 

What Is The Difference Between Heirloom and Hybrid Varieties of Tomato?

Not to get mixed up, heirloom and hybrid seeds are very different. Heirloom seeds are preserved seeds passed down for generations and preserved. Year after year, the characteristics of the seed never change; you are sure to get exactly what you think you are going to get every time. All heirloom seeds are open-pollinated, which means they are pollinated naturally, by the wind or by birds or bees; there is no human intervention. 

Hybrid seeds have been intentionally bred together from two different plants in hopes there will be offspring of the two plants. Hybrid seeds are the babies to heirloom seeds (who are the parents). 

There is no correct answer to which seeds you would like to plant. Heirloom varieties are just as good as a hybrid. Plant whichever type you think would be a fun and yummy addition to your garden!

Does This Mean All Tomatillos Are Hybrids?

Because you need two different plants to pollinate a tomatillo, yes, this means that every tomatillo plant is a hybrid of itself. This ensures that tomatillos will always have a unique and wide range of genetic diversity. 

Though this can be a confusing subject, I hope you have a little more understanding of the massive world of crossbreeding and what it entails. The science behind it all is something that sometimes I can’t even wrap my head around!

But easily put, tomatoes are excellent cross-breeders, so we have so many different strains of tomato—tomatillos, on the other hand, like to stick to themselves. Maybe you can try your hand at cross-breeding tomatoes someday! Maybe you’ll have the next best variety of cherry tomatoes. Happy gardening!