Attack of the Killer Tomatoes

Garden vegetables such as tomatoes and potatoes have been found to be deadly insect killers on a par with Venus fly traps, according to research.

Botanists have discovered for the first time that the plants are carnivorous predators who kill insects in order to "self-fertilize" themselves.

New research shows that they capture and kill small insects with sticky hairs on their stems and then absorb nutrients through their roots when the animals decay and fall to the ground.  It is thought that the technique was developed in the wild in order to supplement the nutrients in poor quality soil – but even domestic varieties grown in your vegetable patch retain the ability.


The killer plants have been identified as among a host of species that are thought to have been overlooked by botanists and explorers searching the world’s remotest regions for carnivorous species. The number of carnivorous plants is thought to have been underestimated by up to 50 per cent and many of them have until now been regarded as among the most benign of plants. Among them are species of petunia, ornamental tobacco plants, some varieties of potatoes and tomatoes, and shepherd’s purse, a relative of cabbages.

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Photo credit: James Baigrie