A nasty discovery

Deformed leaves, epinasty, on tomato

A friend discovered these deformed leaves on a tomato we’d planted in her garden just a month earlier. It had been blooming and doing fine, until one day, it wasn’t. It was also covered with webbing, and many of the leaves were chlorotic – bright chartreuse with darker green spots and veins. We talked for awhile and I learned that a landscaping service came in weekly to care for the lawn and clean up. Looking around, I realized the field of Vinca and Ivy that normally grew next to her house was gone. It didn’t look mowed; the plants were just…gone. Aha! Herbicide.

The deformed leaves in the picture are a sign of herbicide injury, particularly of growth regulators. Epinasty occurs when one portion of the plant’s tissue grows faster than another, or continues to grow while the other portion ceases. Leaves and stems can twist and elongate and club. In this scenario, it looked like 2,4-D damage. Once the plants were stressed from the injury, spider mites got the advantage – the source of the fine webbing.

The appropriate people were called and admonished, the plants were replaced, and all was well in the world. But it reminded me: the problem with plants isn’t always right there on the plant. Sometimes it’s in the bed adjacent, or coming from the house next door, or visiting from the woods nearby (deer, I’m looking at you).