WENATCHEE -- When produce grows in unusual ways, gardeners are left asking: "What the heck happened here?"
Paula Dinius can answer that question. She is an urban horticulturalist with WSU Cooperative Extension in Wenatchee, and has seen lots of strange produce shapes during the years.
The Wenatchee World asked readers to submit their unusual plant life.
As we say goodbye to the summer of 2011, here are Dinius' explanations of what happened.
The five-tomato ring, submitted by Bonnie Orr of East Wenatchee, happened when five flowers fused and self-fertilized at the same time.
"That's why they are all in the same stage of ripeness," Dinius said.
It's a plant mutation, she said, and the mutations happened when the flowers fused earlier in the growing season.
A tomato with a beak shape happened when two flowers fused but only one fertilized. The beak had no seeds in it.
A tomato with an ugly appendage actually was three flowers that fused but they all fertilized at different times. One is red and ripe, one is just breaking into red and the other still is green.
"They look like galls but they are just fused fruits," Dinius said.
An onion that looked like a bird likely happened as a response to a cold snap in early spring, Dinius said.
The cold stimulated a leaf to form a flower. Normally, a flower would be on its own stalk.
"This is not a mutation; it's a response," she said.
A flower forming out of a seed head? Dinius said she can't figure out what happened to the calendula officinalis, commonly known as pot marigold.
"It's not uncommon and it tends to happen with the calendula," she said. "It could be caused by random mutation."