Fern-like Tomato Leaves?

pearl_dJune 27, 2009

I have 8 tomato plants (three varieties) in my garden plot. Two weeks ago we had a nasty onslaught of flea beetles that really hurt the leaves. Since that time, the flea beetles have abated. Four of the plants seem to be recovering nicely and two of those have set fruit. The other four, however, have a bizarre tight curling issue with the leaves. Reading online, the diseases with curled leaves were all described as curling after opening fully. These leaves are not fully forming and despite having flowers, the plants do not appear to be able to set fruit.

Any ideas what it could be or if I should pull the plants? I don't want to potentially infect the healthy surrounding plants.


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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

The first picture could be herbicide damage. Has there been any spraying in your yard (or adjacent properties) in the past few days?

The second link doesn't work for me.

In the third picture, I don't see any disease, only the flea beetle damage. The blossom problem could result from a number of issues; the ones I know about are not diseases.

Questions for you: Are the four undamaged plants separated from the four plants with problems, or are all the tomatoes mixed together in the same area? Are they all in soil, or containers?

What has the weather been like lately?

    Bookmark   June 27, 2009 at 11:12AM
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The only potential herbicides would have been the liquid we sprayed to try to ward off the tomatoes. That was a dilute mix of garlic, red pepper and 7th generation dish soap (biodegradable). It was also applied to all the plants.

The four plants are all located in our garden plot and are intermixed -- this is why I find it so strange that some are affected and others aren't.

The weather earlier in the month in Colorado was pretty wet and relatively cool (70s), but it's warmed up considerably and has dried out. The growth on the diseased looking tomatoes hasn't changed though.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2009 at 1:48PM
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I would say herbicide damage on the first pic as well. Has a neighbor sprayed anything that could have drifted in the wind?

    Bookmark   June 27, 2009 at 3:16PM
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Hmm. I we're up against a field that's pretty untended, but there was a little kid's carnival up against the community garden. Maybe it was related to that.

I pulled up the most scragly of the plants and replaced it this morning. I'm glad to hear that y'all don't think it's a disease! Thank you!

    Bookmark   June 27, 2009 at 5:09PM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

I don't think your soap mixture should have caused it.

Even if it's herbicide damage, the plants may well grow out of it.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2009 at 5:33PM
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It could be some kind of fungus that is causing all you troubles. It could have beencarried by the flea beetles. They are known to carry plant diseases. I would spray them with an organic fungicide.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2009 at 6:31PM
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jean001(z8aPortland, OR)

1st picture -- herbicide damage; most likely 2,4-D.

2nd image -- can't see it

3rd picture -- as has been said, flea beetles

    Bookmark   June 28, 2009 at 12:52AM
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I'd love to get a second opinion on the curling leaves.
Looks exactly like what is going on with a few of my plants, the leaves are curling, and getting "meaty" for lack of a better term, and they do look fern like from above. no herbacide anywhere near my plants. can it be caused by bugs / fungus / mutant plants?

    Bookmark   June 28, 2009 at 6:15PM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

pearl, I just noticed this: there was a little kid's carnival up against the community garden

If this is a shared area, one of the other gardeners might have sprayed herbicide. If there is a lawn, it might have been treated with 2,4-D (a broadleaf weedkiller used on lawns -- you would notice a lawn that doesn't have weeds, or has dying weeds).

Have you seen any dying weeds anywhere? Or curling leaves on anyone else's plants?


andyo, aphid damage can result in smaller foliage, but I think severe damage only happens with visible crowds of aphids -- I think you would have noticed them. I'm not sure if that sort of foliage damage is as visible or localized with other types of sucking insects.

Plants can occasionally mutate, but the kind of change you're talking about is generally not from a mutation. When a mutation occurs, it happens from one point onward, so if you're noticing the same change on different branches (when the earlier tissue was normal) or on different plants, it wouldn't be due to a mutation.

I have some experience with a fungus that causes thickened tissue in camellia leaves: camellia leaf gall. From the time the leaves are first noticeably abnormal to the fruiting stage is only 2 or 3 days, and at that point is obviously fungal (there are visible spores). It only affects the infected leaves, and later growth is normal. I've never heard of any similar fungus in tomatoes, though I'm not an expert.

Here is a link that might be useful: Some pics of herbicide damage

    Bookmark   June 28, 2009 at 7:10PM
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yardenman(z7 MD)

It looks like tomato leaf roll. http://www.nt.gov.au/d/Content/File/p/Plant_Pest/624.pdf

    Bookmark   June 29, 2009 at 3:33AM
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