Cherokee Purple Flower

March 16, 2009

Hello everyone,

Please excuse me if this is a simple question, but this is my second season growing tomatoes ever. I had so much fun last year that I expanded both in space and variety. I very much enjoy the idea of heirloom varieties and have planted several this year. One of which is Cherokee Purple.

Based on my very limited knowledge, I'm seeing some different characteristics in these plants (2). There is one large flower (seemingly) about 1"+ on each. On one of the plants it appears to be on the main, but not for certain how to tell. Is this growth, or a flower? All of the other tomato flowers I've seen on any plant have been much, much smaller and thinner.

Last year, I planted a Marmande that never grew beyond 1-1/2', presumably because it fruited too early with only tomato, so now I'm deathly scared of flowers this early in the year. I don't know if this is sound or paranoid.

Any and all thoughts are appreciated, and I wish I knew how to post a picture.

Thanks in advance,


Comments (27)

  • catman529

    The larger flowers on your CP's could have been megablooms. Basically multiple flowers fused together into one big flower. Usually if they set fruit, you get a big "boat" shaped fruit, often ribbed.

    If you're worried about flowers at a young age, just pinch them off. I didn't do that last year because I was really wanting my first tomatoes, but this year I will probably do it just for the good of the plants.

  • ragtimegal


    Both of my young CP's have the same flower on the main stem as well. I have never grown this variety before either, and I also noticed that it was different from the flowering pattern of the other tomato varieties that I am growing (that currently have flowers).

    I assumed that it must be characteristic for this variety, and I would just wait and see what happens, but I am curious to hear what other answers you get.

    Catman, how common is a megabloom? Are they more inherent in one variety over another?

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  • spiced_ham

    Megablooms (fused blossoms) are common (at a low percentage) to many large beefsteak type heirlooms. also, often the first bloom on the truss will be larger for some reason.

    Early blooms generally do not stunt tomato plants because they usually grow large enough to support fruit by the time the fruit reaches a large enough size to stress the plant. Bell peppers are the opposite, the first pepper will often stunt the plant because the plants are slow growers early in the season and have a relatively small top size. Why your Super Marmande stayed small may have more to do with nutrients/soil and water than to early blossoms. There is also the possibility that it got something like a stem borer early on.

  • HoosierCheroKee

    A picture is worth a thousand words.

    When diagnosing a perceived plant problem, a good picture is probably worth a couple or three thousand words.

    Without a picture anyone responding is depending upon imagination to determine exactly what a novice grower means by this blossom "on one of the plants appears to be on the main (stem?), but not for certain how to tell."

    Well, guess what, without a picture, I am not for certain how to tell either. How to tell whether it is an abnormal terminal blossom or just a blossom hanging off to one side of the main stem per normal.

    Beyond that, in my experience: 1) "mega" blossoms on Cherokee Purple are common early in the season, and 2) Cherokee Purple will in fact go "determinate" in some cases (not always and not every plant) but subsequently will send out side shoots that continue indefinitely producing new growth and blossoms throughout the season.

    But without a picture, how can one really respond with certainty as to what is going on with the limited information given in the original post?

  • tom8olvr

    Wow, I haven't even started my seed yet - in zone 5... I'm jealous... talking about mega blossoms already.

    I've always gotten mega blossoms, but last year was a record for me - I mean I had tons and tons... very exciting, but very few came to fruition... :) I'm pretty sure pollinating would be an issue with a blossom like that... any how, here's some pics...

  • duajones

    Cherokee Purple has done the same thing to me every year I have grown it, either a fused bloom or huge bloom early but they usually dont set fruit for me

  • catman529

    I had one nice sized mega bloom last year, and tapped it a lot to try and help pollination, but it never set a fruit. I think I got several mega blooms last year, but can't remember which ones set fruit.

  • mulio

    Large blossoms or fused blossoms are the result of environment. It just happens to occur more often in beefstake varieties but can and does happen to any variety if environmental conditions are right.

    The reason they are seen more in early season is the cool conditions which effect flower development. This often occurs at a primordial stage before the eye can really see them. Cool conditions change the expression of development so that the arrangement of ovaries change, and/or flowers fuse and in some cases more flowers form. Most often the genetic component has to do with the varieties which produce beefstake - but the same thing can happen on cherry tomatoes or round types if environmental conditions are right. Cherry/rounds often come out looking larger than others or like a pair of bazoongas or a behind.

    Another deformity occassionally noted are pieces of tomato that stick off like an appendage.


    This happens when a part (or parts) of the style does not completely fuse together or is not "level" with the others but are still joined with the others at the base of the flower.

    Here is a close up I took of one such example these happen to be cherokee purple:

    Here is the same flower with less magnification. Notice how hard it is to spot that area at this level.

    Sometimes these errant pieces of style stick off completely. I notice these more often than one would suspect when emasculating flowers (mostly beefstake type).

    It's often the case that more ovaules form rather than flowers fuse. tomlvr's 2nd pic shows a good example of what is happening more often than flowers fusing. That flower has an irregular shape ovary rather than round. It's the shape is reflected in that irregular stigma and wide flatten style. That tomato, provided it gets fertilized, will form an irregular shape and have a more linear irregular blossom scar as seen in the pic below.

    These descriptors are from the standards now used by breeders and conservators.

    So it's mostly cool weather causing these odd shapes. This occurs when the flower buds are still in the apical meristem (growing point). Large blossoms are often associated with beefstake varieties but can also happen with smooth round varieties if conditions are right when the ovules are forming.

    Insects, physical damage and chemical exposures can also lead to strange flower/fruit shapes.

  • chrisinaustin

    Catman, thanks for your description. Now that I had a better search term, I can safely say that these are megablooms.

    Spiced ham, thanks for the information on early flowering as this at least helps my mild anxiety issues with seeing these large blooms so early.

    Hoosiercherokee, I agree about the photo. I am new to the forum and hadn't found the faq about photo uploads. I'm going to try to attach now. Thanks for the verification photos tom8olvr.

    I wish I had a picture of the whole plant, but I'm on the road for work this week and this is all I have.


  • chrisinaustin

    Thanks mulio, that's great information. Certainly much more than I was able to find with a quick web search.

    Opens up plenty of avenues to continue further curiosity research.

  • HoosierCheroKee

    Good photos, Chris. Thanks.

    Yes, that looks like a terminal flower. And it looks as if there are five or more internodes below the flower. So, one might think the plant went determinate immediately.

    I have never seen that happen with a Cherokee Purple; however, I have seen a Cherokee Purple fork at the second internode and develop twin main stems that terminated later in flower clusters. But then side shoots appeared below the terminal flower clusters and the plant continued making new growth and producing additional flowers and fruit until November.

    If you look at the plant in your picture, there already are two new shoots (some people might call them suckers) that are emerging in the internodes just below that flower. I think you'll be alright, because I think those shoots will become main growing stems for that plant.

    The plant looks very healthy. I am concerned just a mite though about the soil being splattered up onto the leaves. If you can minimize that by using a layer of mulch or a sheet of landscape fabric over your soil, I think you'll lower the chances of fungal diseases.

    Maybe that's not soil splatters. Maybe we're actually seeing a couple of tiny black flea beetles and some flea beetle damage. Hard to tell. My old eyes ain't what they used to be.

    Good luck, Chris. Looks like you have a good start.


  • chrisinaustin

    Thanks again Bill. If I am understanding correctly, I will just leave it be and hope one of the new shoots becomes the main.

    My other plant with a similar flower doesn't seem to have the same positioning. In other words, the flower is off the side of the main (so sorry, no pix), so I'm guessing it's probably not terminal, or the plant hasn't gone determinant.

    That is soil splatter, I was a bit embarrased to post, but the photo was right after some rain. Mulching is on the top of to do list for this weekend when I get back home.


  • mulio

    It's hard to describe how tomato growth happens. The term is called "sympodial development". Not sure I want to attempt explain it. Im afriad it might just bring more questions.

    When that terminal flower was formed so was the new growing point (apical meristem) that would have carried on growth from that point. That apical meristem was likely damaged so the flower became the highest terminal point. (there is a genetic conditions that does soemthing similar).

    But hoosierdaddy is correct that a new growing point will eventually form from on of the lower leaf axils and take over (likely more than one).

  • catman529

    I never knew that about a part of the style being shorter than the rest and how it causes fruit deformities...thanks mulio for the info and photos

  • timmy1

    Mulio's the man!

  • tom8olvr

    Great info...
    I found some other odd blooms from last year...

    They were abundant last year... I was quite taken with them at the time.

  • catman529

    Looks like sepals coming through where the anthers should be?! Very interesting blossom, I'd like to see one of those set a fruit.

  • compost_pete-grower

    Man your photos of mutant flowers scare me!!
    I would pinch all "abnormal flowers" so you don't get cancer eating those fruits. Just kidding, but the fruit will be goofy shaped and ugly.

  • anthony_toronto

    I also had an unbeleivable number of megablooms last year, I think I recall that some others said the same thing (or maybe it was just me and tom8olvr). A few did ok, but for most that I allowed to mature, I had to cut of so much woody/unripened fruit that it was nothing more than a waste of time that likely took much needed nutrients away from better shaped fruits. I did get one fused (twin) oxheart that was about 42 ounces and relatively well formed, but still never quite fully ripened. The flowers I got were complete mutants.

  • tom8olvr

    I know, totally freaky!! I had to take pictures... I left them b/c I was so taken with them, but none really did anything.
    This was my first fruit last year - a double ox. It wasn't ugly at all.

    This one got the prize for ugly though... catfacing galore.
    tasted good though.

  • jocoyn

    I know this is an old one but I found on an image search - I am getting this this year and am hoping that a new terminal bud does come out below the megabloom since I because, before it started to open, I thought it was the terminal leaf cluster (and besides other flowers were on that stalk), and pinched off the suckers below and the only one coming out is at the base of the plant.. ...... I had never seen this before!

  • Seysonn_ 8a-NC/HZ-7

    To my experience, megablooms develop singly, in place of a truss/cluster. Right now I have one growing on my Daniel Burson plant and probably on on Cherokee purple too.


  • Campanula UK Z8

    I found CP to be very susceptible to this cactiflora gene - so much so that every plant was throwing these congested flower blooms. One of the reasons I don't grow it anymore (that and the splitting and not very good yield of decent plants).

  • Yuan Gong Hamilton ON CANADA 6b

    wtf. I think you have a mutation. Save seeds and sell them to me.

  • Yuan Gong Hamilton ON CANADA 6b

    My blossoms are all the same size more or less. 1 cm ish.

  • arkymom1

    I have some started from the tomato itself. I just squeeze the seeds from the tomato into a large container of soil, bring them in when the weather gets to cool outside, put in a sunny window and have tomatoes all winter long. Here is my plant on my back porch, (it is still warm here in Arkansas) and a pic of the mega bloom.

    arkymom1's ideas · More Info

    arkymom1's ideas · More Info

    arkymom1's ideas · More Info

    arkymom1's ideas · More Info

  • PcolaGrower

    I too have had quite a bit of mega blooms, only a couple are fruiting, but either way they are super cool.

    The two trusses twisted together to form a crazy twisted double mega bloom. This was the first pic I took of it. I took a couple more and this one actually setted some fruit. Should be interesting if it ripens.

    The most recent pic

    The variety was Mortgage Lifter.

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