Meow…: Catfacing Tomatoes

“Dear Horticulturist,

I just read your post on the mutant tomatoes.  Isn’t that what is called catfacing? I think you description is incorrect.”


Thank you for asking this question.  While you are kind of on the right track, these two disorders are not one in the same.  The one previously described really doesn’t have a name, persay.  Instead, it is often described as the tomato having ‘appendages’ or ‘protusions’ or ‘the appearance of multiple fruits fused together’.  Unfortunately, for those of us that wish to expand our vocabulary, we are left with nothing other than descriptive words.  It is extremely rare, so there isn’t a name.


Catfacing is kind of the opposite.  Instead of having something that sticks out, it is a pox mark on the bottom of a fruit.  It is the ‘cousin’ of blossom end rot —

Blossom End Rot is caused by a calcium deficiency in the soil in relation to uneven moisture levels or excessive fertilizing.  Calcium is required in relatively large concentrations for normal cell growth and development.  It is moved from the soil through the roots to the meristem (tips of the plant where active growth occurs) via differentiation in water potential and pressure in the xylem of the plant.  When there is not a steady flow of water to the plant, the areas of the plant that growing will have a deficiency.  If the active growth point is a fruit, it will show up at the tip (end) of it.  What is actually happening to the tomato is that the cell walls are weakened by not having enough calcium.  The cell ruptures and discolors as it dries out.

Overfertilizing with nitrogen can also cause problems.  Extra nitrogen increases the speed at which the fruit grows and its size.  Calcium uptake by the plant remains steady in relationship to what would be the normal rate of growth.  Essentially, this means that the calcium uptake is almost ‘lagging’ because everything else is accelerated.  As a result, the fruit lacks calcium.

Catfacing goes one step beyond in that you compound the problem by having conditions that lead to poor pollination.  The soft tissues that form instead of seeds in these areas are more susceptible to the effects of blossom end rot and develop into an even more serious problem.

Once the problem develops, quick fixes are difficult.  Stabilize the moisture level as much as possible.  Remove all fruits that have bene damaged.  Feeding with manure or compost tea is recommended by many if this occurs in a garden plot.  You can also do foliar applications of calcium, but I’ve read that the results are not always the best because calcium is a rather bulky element (larger than nitrogen and others that are normally used in foliar feeding) and not easily absorbed through the leaf tissue.  In my own garden, I have found the best success with using an application of Epsom salts.  These can be found in your local pharmacy — usually in either the laxative/digestive health area or with things like bath salts/bubble bath.  I use an old scoop from Lipton’s Ice Tea and give each plant a heaped scoop — sprinkling it in a circle around the base of the plant and with about an inch or two between the stem and the ring.  Repeat again in about two weeks for sandy soils, three for clay soils.



© Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk!, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk! with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


2 thoughts on “Meow…: Catfacing Tomatoes

  1. Sorry, but that pic is just nasty. Hope I never have those in my garden. Can humans get any kind of disease from them?

    • No, you can’t catch anything from them. Any disease that tomatoes would have would only infect other members of the tomato family (potatoes, petunias, eggplants, peppers, etc.).

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