Ficus ramiflora Standl.
Ficus tamatamae Pittier
Ficus caballina is a rather straggly shrub or tree with an open crown; it can grow up to 10 metres tall[
]. It often starts life as an epiphyte in the branch of a tree and can eventually send down aerial roots that, once they reach the ground, provide extra nutrients that help the plant grow more vigorously. These aerial roots can completely encircle the trunk of the host tree, constricting its growth - this, coupled with the more vigorous top growth, can lead to the fig outcompeting and killing the tree in which it is growing[
]. The slender bole is usually bent, it can be free of branches for up to 1.8 metres[
The plant is harvested from the wild for food and local medicinal use.
S. America - Bolivia, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, the Guyanas.
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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[
Fruit - raw[
]. Very small, but a sweet flavour[
]. The globose fruit is pale red when mature, around 5 - 6mm in diameter[
An exudate from the stems is used to treat sprains, wounds, cuts and skin infections[
The thick white latex obtained from the stems is used like 'plaster of Paris' to set bones. The latex sets rapidly to a rather hard mass[
When the yellowish or medium brown bark is cut, it exudes a fair quantity of insipid latex which coagulates readily. It has local medicinal uses[
The wood is oatmeal-coloured with pale gray areas caused by stain. Coarse textured; straight or slightly wavy-grained; it has no distinctive odour, but is sometimes slightly bitter. The wood is light in weight, but fairly firm; easy to cut; checks slightly in drying[
]. It has no recorded uses.
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