Scary tomato appears to bleed

New Australian species is less than appetizing

bloody tomato

CUT AND CLOT  Two minutes after being cut open, the white flesh of an immature Solanum ossicruentum fruit turns red. After five minutes of air exposure, the bush tomato’s bloody color becomes even darker.

J.T. Cantley (CC BY 4.0)  

A newly discovered species of tomato belongs in a haunted house, not on a sandwich.

Fruit from the bush tomato plant Solanum ossicruentum bears little resemblance to its cultivated cousins. The Australian tomato, about a couple centimeters wide, grows enclosed in a shell of spikes. These burrs probably help the fruit latch on to the fur of passing mammals, which then spread the tomato’s seeds elsewhere, researchers at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pa., report May 3 in PhytoKeys.

Slice open the fearsome fruit and within five minutes, its sticky white-green flesh appears to bleed, flushing bright red to dark maroon in response to air exposure. One brave researcher tasted an unripe fruit and deemed it salty. The bush tomato becomes no more appetizing with time: Mature fruits harden into dry, bony nuggets.

The tomato’s gruesome qualities inspired its name, courtesy of a group of Pennsylvanian seventh-grade science students: “Ossicruentum” combines the Latin words for “bone” and “bloody.”

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