Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Ficus fistulosa Reinw. ex Blume

Kingdom:Plantae
Phylum/Division:Magnoliophyta
Class:Eudicots
Order:Rosales
Family:Moraceae
Genus:Ficus
Species:F. fistulosa
Common Names:Yellow Stem Fig
Status:Common

Description

The tree is evergreen and grows to about 10–15 m formng a loosely arranged crown. It has a straight trunk with smooth bark ranging from light grey to yellowish in colour. The young twigs are hollow and breaks easily. Leaves of this tree are alternately arranged, simple, elliptical, 7.5-32 x 2.5-15 cm and drawn into a leaf tip. The young leaves are pale pink. Figs are pear-shaped, 2.5 cm wide. borne on 2.5-5 cm long stalks and in clusters on woody knobs on the trunk and branches. They ripen from yellow to green-yellow. The flowers are found within the figs; with male and female flowers in figs of different trees.

Read more about the Rosales order.
Read more about the Moraceae family.

Distribution

Native to India, South China and Malesia.

General Biology

The population of Ficus fistulosa in Singapore is much less synchronised in terms of fruiting when compared to Hong Kong because of its cold winter. Being in a climate that is favourable for fig production year-round, number of crops per tree is also greater with individual trees bearing 4–7 crops a year, and some trees are never without figs.

Life Cycle

This species of fig is pollinated by the fig-wasps, Ceratosolen hewitti, in Singapore. It is however, pollinated by another species of fig-wasps, Ceratosolen constrictus, in Hong Kong, Java and Borneo.

Fig dispersals are done mainly by mammals and the larger species of birds. Some of these dispersers include the Long-tailed Macaque, bats, hornbills and Pink-necked Green Pigeons. Fig trees attract hordes of birds when they are in fruits.

Ecological Role

With a large crop size and being readily abundant year-round, figs constitute an important food source for many frugivores, making it a keystone plant resource.

Human Uses

This Yellow Stem Fig makes an attractive roadside tree, as unlike those of the strangling types, it does not have aggressive roots that can damage drains, pavements, etc. It is an excellent tree to attract wildlife back to the urban environment. In some parts of Indonesia the young leaves are eaten in salads. A decoction of the leaves is given to women after childbirth and the latex has been used to treat headache.

References

Chong, K. Y., H. T. W. Tan & R. T. Corlett, 2009. A Checklist of the Total Vascular Plant Flora of Singapore: Native, Naturalised and Cultivated Species. Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, National University of Singapore, Singapore. 273 pp.

Corlett, R.T., 1987. The phenology of Ficus fistulosa in Singapore. Biotropica, 19(2): 122-124.

Corner, E.J.H., 1988. Wayside trees of Malaya. Third edition. Volumes 1-2. Malayan Nature Society, Kuala Lumpur. 861 pp.

Ng, A., A. Ng, B. Lee, A. L. Chua, S. G. Goh, J. T. K. Lai, G. C. Tan & V. D’Rozario, 2005.A guide to the fabulous figs of Singapore. Singapore Science Centre. 152spp.

Peh, K.S.H. & F.L. Chong, 2003. Seed dispersal agents of two Ficus species in a disturbed tropical forest. Ornithological Science, 19: 119-125.

Rao, A. N. & Y. C. Wee, 1989. Singapore trees. Singapore Institute of Biology, Singapore. 357 pp.

Wee, Y. C. 1990. A guide to the wayside trees of Singapore. Singapore Science Centre. (2nd ed.) 160 pp.

Wee, Y. C. 2003. Tropical trees and shrubs - A selection for urban plantings. Sun Tree Pub., Singapore. 392pp.

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