Dwarf/tree-type tomatoes-suggested additional classification

(Zone 7b)

When one is entering tomato varieties into PlantFiles --

Growing habit selections for tomatoes currently include:

Leaf Type:
Regular Leaf
Potato Leaf

I'd like to suggest that an additional selection be added to Growing Habit to accommodate the dwarf/rugose/tree-types, as they are really in a class all their own.

I was going to initially recommend that Rugose be added to Leaf Type, but then it occurred to me that as development and availability of Dwarf varieties progresses, more and more varieties that are both Potato Leaf and Rugose will continue to become available.

With permission of Craig LeHoullier, who is a long-time tomato grower and expert, I'd like to share his description of how these dwarf/rugose/tree-types differ, and why it might make sense to add Dwarf/Tree-Type/Rugose to Growing Habit:

Well, they are their own things, which is a dwarf, distinct from indeterminate in the rugose foliage, thick central stem and very stout, slow upward growth. They really grow similarly to indeterminate in that they flower and fruit until frost, giving intermittent fruit throughout the season, rather than the determinate characteristic of concentrated harvest (determinates of course have normal, not rugose, foliage). Whereas my dwarfs that I pulled out over the weekend got to 4 feet tall from a May plant out (4 feet of vertical growth in 6 months duration), the indeterminates that are 6 months old are 12 plus feet tall.

I'd like to hear Carolyn's input and suggestions on this topic when she has a chance to respond. And of course, anyone else is welcome to add their thoughts as well. ;o)

Salem, NY(Zone 4b)

Suze, I know that the snippet you posted above was from something Craig posted last night at Tville. But about two weeks ago I asked him to write a definition of dwarf and distinguish it from others and asked him to write it so I could cut and paste it in the Tomato Forum here at DG in answer to some questions/confusion.

He has far more experience with dwarfs than I do.

I've already posted what's below in the Tomato Forum, about two weeks ago, but now that you're bringing it up here I do think it's more detailed than the snippet he wrote last night and would help folks decide if they have a dwarf, or not.

I've not been active with the Plant Files, but it doesn't mean I'm not interested. I have never had a camera , and several years ago I did start reading through the variety lists, but to be honest, with hundreds and hundreds, to look for errors of fact, it just got tiresome.

I have been asked by admin here to help out from time to time and I would hope that if there are any varieties/areas where I can help that someone would contact me.

Finally, as you know, there are very few authentic dwarf varieties now available, but as we both know, in a few years many new dwarf varieties will become available due to the superb Dwarf project at Tville that's being done by US folks in our summer and the Aussies/Kiwis and Tasmanians in their summer, allowing for accelerated growouts towards genetic stability for those selections that look promising.

Craig is head of the Dwarf project for the US folks and Patrina is head of same for the downunder folks.

I think it's exciting since so many folks are moving towards container growing and the dwarfs are perfect for that and up until now fruit color and shape and taste have been limited.

So here's the longer more detailed article I asked Craig to write and that I did post in the Tomato Forum. This one I think is better than the above snippet, only b'c he spent more time with it knowing it was going to be posted as a definition and it is more detailed.


Definition of Dwarf, by Craig Lehoullier

Dwarf tomatoes are distinct in having a very thick, stout central stem and crinkly dark green foliage - known as "rugose". They behave as indeterminate varieties in that they fruit throughout the season, as distinguished from determinates, which tend to ripen their crop within a short period of time. Determinates also have normal thickness central stems, are highly branched, with blossom clusters at the end of the branches. Dwarfs are more like very short indeterminates - by the end of the season, they are typically no more than 3-4 feet tall, depending upon the particular variety.

So, Indeterminates: normal diameter main stem, highly suckered, normal foliage that can be regular or potato leaf, fruit throughout the season, high foliage to fruit ratio, with the main stem and side shoots having the potential to grow 8-10 feet or more throughout the seawson.

Determinate - normal diameter main stem, highly branched, compact - foliage can be regular or potato leaf - such as Taxi or Fireball (reg leaf), or Southern Night and Black Sea Man (potato leaf). Foliage is the same as the foliage on indeterminate varieties - not crinkly or rugose. Very high ratio of fruit to foliage, ripens its crop nearly all at once then kicks the bucket. Flavors tend to be bland due to the high fruit to foliage ratio. True determinates did not emerge until the 1920s, - such as Cooper's Special and Pritchard Scarlet Topper.

Dwarf - very thick main stem, not all that branched, but grows vertically very slowly, foliage can be potato or regular leaf but is in both cases very dark green and crinkly (rugose). As young seedlings, Determinate and Indeterminate are pretty much indistinguishable, but it is easy to identify dwarfs due to the much shorter appearance, thicker central stem and crinkly foliage. Like indeterminates, they fruit until frost, but top out at 3-4 feet - also, they fruit sporadially throughout the season, and the high foliage to fruit ratio allows for better flavors. Very few true dwarfs are known, with the better known ones Dwarf Champion, Golden Dwarf Champion, Dwarf Stone and Lime Green Salad.


Augusta, GA(Zone 8a)

Carolyn, How would you and Suze classify the ISI's. Their popularity is waning, but there are still more of them then the OP dwarfs.

Salem, NY(Zone 4b)

Carolyn, How would you and Suze classify the ISI's. Their popularity is waning, but there are still more of them then the OP dwarfs.


Dill, my view is as follows:

ISI means indeterminate short internode for those who don't know, so they are recognized as indeterminates by the breeders who bred them but with shorter internode distances than most indeterminates.

What that means is a more compact plant habit b'c of the shorter internode distances.

However, since indeterminates are not defined by internode distance, rather by formation of non-terminal blossom clusters as opposed to determinates that have terminal blossom clusters, then I would classify the ISI's as indeterminates with regard to plant habit.

And thus not related to dwarfs either since the difference between dwarfs and determinates and indeterminates I think was nicely outlined above in the article I posted from Craig.

Makes sense to you? ( smile)


Augusta, GA(Zone 8a)

Carolyn, Not really. The ISI's that I have grown have the exact same characteristics of the dwarfs. Example Husky Pink is a bit larger overall than Champion Tree/Dwarf Champion but the physical resemblance is close. The two Champions I have grown, and while they have little to recommend them as tomatoes, they exhibit the same characteristics as the ISI's I have tried.

(Zone 7b)

Carolyn, thanks for weighing in, and posting that additional longer definition that Craig wrote up. When people create PlantFiles entries, all they see are those Growing Habit Categories as check boxes to tick off. Unfortunately, there would be no access to a definition while creating the entry. Of course an definition for Dwarf/Tree-Type/Rugose could always be entered here in Botanary, which is another (separate) resource here. Kind of a botanical dictionary.

Farmerdill, I've grown Husky Red Cherry before and it did have rugose foliage. But I don't think all ISI types have rugose foliage, is that correct? Also, how many ISI varieties are there, as a ballpark figure? I've grown a couple, but not all that many.

Augusta, GA(Zone 8a)

Suze, I only know 6 cultivars, the Husky (Cherry, Pink, Gold, Red) , Better Bush, Beefy Boy. As far as I know they all have the characteristics listed by Craig. In fact in the seed production world classifications are I, D, SD, and ISI. Some companies do list dwarf, but invariably these are the miniature determinates like Tiny Tim, Patio etc. There are a lot in this category. The Husky series started as the greatest thing since sliced bread, but the novelty has worn off. ISI hybrids have no appeal to commercial growers so they probably will be ultimately backwater floaters like the Champion Tree which has all the characteristics of an ISI. The thick rigid stem characteristic of this type may be esthetically appealing and even practical as they are pretty much self supporting. So far tho both yield and quality of most cultivars have not been good. Prairie Garden seeds lists a red version of the Champion Tree as Dwarf German, but I have never seen it.

(Zone 7b)

Well, taking the ISI information into consideration, maybe it would make the most sense to just add Rugose as an additional selection under Leaf Type? That way, both RL (or PL) could be checked off *and* Rugose -- if applicable.

Or maybe Tree-Type/Rugose/ISI gets added to Growing Habit.

Dill, what do you think?

This message was edited Oct 11, 2007 6:17 PM

Augusta, GA(Zone 8a)

Does not matter to me. The number of cultivars is insignificant compared to the base in general. Of more concern to me is the American hybrid , French hybrid check boxes which I would much prefer a single hybrid checkbox. with internationalization, it is sometimes diffcult to identify country of origen, but at any rate Dutch. Japanese, Israeli, Chinese, Indian, Thai and Jordanian based companies turn out more hybrid tomato cultivars than the French.

(Zone 7b)

Does not matter to me either. ;o) Right now, I'm leaning towards making the change in Growing Habit, because I see folks going through and selecting Rugose without also denoting RL or PL. And I think that is important to know.

Another thing that has occurred to me are the wispy/droopy foliaged ones (that are technically RL). If Rugose gets added to Leaf Type, then couldn't a case be made for possibly adding that as a selection as well? LOL.

And I definitely agree with you on the hybrid checkboxes (have thought the same thing before myself). I think they should be changed/merged to a single checkbox, if possible.

(Zone 7b)

I thought I'd put together a list of tree-types that come to mind, certainly may not be comprehensive:

Golden Dwarf Champion
Citron Compact
New Big Dwarf
Russian Red
Lime Green Salad
Orange Tree
Dwarf Champion
Dwarf Champion #15
Dwarf Champion Improved
Dwarf Recessive PL

That might not seem like a lot. However, there are many more in the works that will be coming available in the next few years. Hard to say how many, there were at least 15 different initial crosses that were made with this project, and within each of those 'lines', multiple selections are being looked at, grown out, and stabilized.

And then the ISIs Dill mentioned.
Husky (Cherry, Pink, Gold, Red) , Better Bush, Beefy Boy

Evansville, IN(Zone 6b)

>>"Determinate - normal diameter main stem, highly branched, compact - foliage can be regular or potato leaf ... foliage is the same as the foliage on indeterminate varieties - not crinkly or rugose."

Okay ... Homestead ... determinate AND rugose ... what is it since it doesn't fit either of Craig's definitions for "determinate" or "dwarf" ???

This message was edited Apr 23, 2008 10:24 PM

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