Seed2Need, a Corrales non-profit that grows tomatoes and other vegetables for donation to local food pantries, has encountered a parasitic weed with purple flowers that attaches itself to the roots of tomato plants, eventually killing the host plant by depriving it of nutrients.
The Agricultural Extension Service at NMSU has identified the weed as a species of broomrape, most likely Desert Broomrape, a native to the Southwest. It is a highly destructive species, killing a variety of plants. A single broomrape seedling quickly grows beneath the tomato plant, producing up to 500,000 microscopic wind- dispersed seeds that can survive in soil 35 years.
The tomato plants in the large Seed2Need garden were affected in July. We believe that broomrape arrived in the garden in 2022. The plants subsequently produced seeds that were tilled into the soil in the early spring of 2023. Measures are being taken to kill every broomrape and tomato plant in the affected patch.
We are sharing this information, because broomrape may be growing in other tomato patches in Corrales. For more information, see the following articles:
- https://www.invasive.org/weedcd/pdfs/wow/small-broomrape.pdf (DOWNLOAD)
If you find broomrape in your tomato patch, please report it to the Master Gardeners helpline at email@example.com