Ficus comosa Roxb.
Ficus cuspidatocaudata Hayata
Ficus dictyophylla Wall.
Ficus haematocarpa Blume ex Decne.
Ficus lucida Aiton
Ficus neglecta Decne.
Ficus nepalensis Blanco
Ficus nitida Thunb.
Ficus notobor Buch.-Ham. ex Wall.
Ficus nuda (Miq.) Miq.
Ficus papyrifera Griff.
Ficus parvifolia Oken
Ficus pendula Link
Ficus pyrifolia Salisb.
Ficus reclinata Desf.
Ficus retusa nitida (Thunb.) Miq.
Ficus striata Roth
Ficus umbrina Elmer
Ficus xavieri Merr.
Urostigma benjaminum (L.) Miq.
Urostigma neglectum Miq.
Urostigma nudum Miq.
An ideal shade tree with its wide, dense crown
Photograph by: Gerrit Davidse
Ficus benjamina is an evergreen tree with a dense, wide crown; it can grow 15 - 30 metres tall. The bole can be 30 - 60cm in diameter[
]. The plant usually begins life as an epiphyte, growing in the branch of another tree; as it grows older it sends down aerial roots which, when they reach the ground quickly form roots and become much thicker and more vigorous. They supply nutrients to the fig, allowing it to grow faster than the host tree. The aerial roots gradually encircle the host tree, preventing its main trunk from expanding, whilst at the same time the foliage smothers the foliage of the host. Eventually the host dies, leaving the fig to carry on growing without competition.
The tree is harvested from the wild for local use as a medicine and source of fibre plus a low quality wood. It is very ornamental, being widely cultivated in the tropics and subtropics and used as an avenue and shade-providing tree[
]. It has long been an extremely popular indoor houseplant because of its attractive shape and tolerance for a variety of growing conditions, usually growing 60 - 300cm tall in the pot[
]. The plant is grown as a pioneer species in reforestation projects in Thailand[
The sap from the plant contains furocoumarins, psoralens and ficin[
]. Frequent contact can cause iching of the eyes, cough, and wheezing; contact and exposure to sunlight can cause skin irritation with itching, redness and stinging. Effects are usually minor or only lasting for a few minutes[
E. Asia - China, India, Nepal, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, New Guinea, Australia, Pacific Islands.
Mixed forests near villages at elevations from 400 - 800 metres in southern China[
]. Primary forests at low and medium elevations in the Philippines[
]. Mostly along rivers and streams with sandy to limestone soils[
|Cultivation Status||Ornamental, Wild
Plants are damaged by frost but will often recover if the frost was light[
Succeeds in full sun to partial shade[
]. Grows best in a moist, fertile soil[
]. Tolerant of strong winds[
]. The leaves are very sensitive to small changes in light. When it is re-located it reacts by dropping many of its leaves and replacing them with new leaves adapted to the new light intensity[
Widely grown as an ornamental, the tree is classified as invasive in some Pacific Islands[
A fast-growing species[
Fig trees have a unique form of fertilization, each species relying on a single, highly specialized species of wasp that is itself totaly dependant upon that fig species in order to breed. The trees produce three types of flower; male, a long-styled female and a short-styled female flower, often called the gall flower. All three types of flower are contained within the structure we usually think of as the fruit.
The female fig wasp enters a fig and lays its eggs on the short styled female flowers while pollinating the long styled female flowers. Wingless male fig wasps emerge first, inseminate the emerging females and then bore exit tunnels out of the fig for the winged females. Females emerge, collect pollen from the male flowers and fly off in search of figs whose female flowers are receptive. In order to support a population of its pollinator, individuals of a Ficus spp. Must flower asynchronously. A population must exceed a critical minimum size to ensure that at any time of the year at least some plants have overlap of emmission and reception of fig wasps. Without this temporal overlap the short-lived pollinator wasps will go locally extinct[
The bark of the root, the root itself, and the leaves are boiled in oil and applied on wounds and bruises[
The juice of the bark (latex?) has a reputation in the Philippines for curing liver diseases[
The pounded leaves and bark are applied as a poultice in the treatment of rheumatic headaches[
The tree provides a dense shade and has an aggressive root system, usually shading out plants underneath[
The tree is planted as a pioneer species in northern Thailand in reforestation projects to restore native woodland - it is planted in degraded woodland and open areas in a mix with various other species that all have the ability to grow fast; produce dense, weed-suppressing crowns; and attract seed-dispersing wildlife, particularly birds and bats[
The tree responds well to trimming and can be grown as a hedge[
]. However, the aggressive rooting system makes it unsuitable for growing near buildings, drains etc., and it would also compete for nutrients with other plants growing nearby[
The inner bark is a source of fibre[
]. The strips of bast of this species are salmon-buff; some are soft and pliable, others hard and stiff. Rope made from the bast possesses a fair degree of tenacity. With a tensile strength of 480 kilos per square centimeter. Wetting reduced the strength only 2%[
The bark contains about 4.2% tannins[
A latex can be obtained from all parts of the plant[
]. It contains 30% caoutchouc, along with 59% resin[
The wood is of low quality, but is used for temporary constructions, mouldings, interior work, cladding, drawers,
small domestic articles, fruit crates etc[
The wood is used for fuel[