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My sister wants to grow NZ tree tomatoes (tamarillos). Can you tell me their botanical name and also do you need 2 plants for them to bear fruit? Also, my acmena hedge is plagued by a purple vine. It has heart-shaped leaves and seems to grow very prolifically despite my best efforts. It has runners and grows around the trees strangling them. It also has a very pretty purple flower. Do you know what it is and how do I get rid of it?


The tree tomato or tamarillo (Cyphomandra betacea) is a frost-tender subtropical — warm temperate member of the potato family. It is actually a native of the Americas, although it has been grown and developed in New Zealand for some time. You do not usually need two plants for them to bear fruit, although it can improve seed and therefore fruit set. There are a number of colour variants available, including the usual dark-red and oranges and yellows. Trees will reach 3 metres in height, and are relatively short-lived, rarely lasting more than 5 years. Unfortunately, tamarillos can be affected by a virus disease, which causes blemished fruit (there is no cure). Try to choose healthy looking plants if you can.

It sounds like your acmena hedge is being strangled by common or blue morning glory (Ipomoea indica), a relative of the kumara (Ipomoea batatas). This can be quite hard to get rid of. As you say, it does produce runners and its stems twine very closely around other plants. I had a lot of this in my garden, and unfortunately, if you want to get rid of it without killing other plants you will have to do as I did, which is to remove it by hand, cutting the stems at ground level, and digging up the roots. If parts of the morning glory are free of other plants, you may be able to carefully apply herbicide. Good luck!

UnitecAdvice by Dr Dan Blanchon from Unitec's Diploma in Sustainable Horticulture and Bachelor of Resource Management.

Reproduced with permission from NZOOM Home and Garden content,
from the previous website of  TVNZ News

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Last updated: June 27, 2005