An Eco-sustainable World
ArborealSpecies Plant

Ficus variegata

Ficus variegata

The common red stem fig or green fruited fig, variegated fig (Ficus variegata Blume, 1825) is an arboreal species belonging to the Moraceae family.

Systematic –
From a systematic point of view it belongs to:
Eukaryota domain,
Kingdom Plantae,
Division Magnoliophyta,
Class Magnoliopsida,
Rosales Order,
Family Moraceae,
Genus Ficus,
Species F. variegata.
The terms are synonymous:
– Covellia racemifera (Roxb.) Miq.;
– Ficus agusanensis Elmer;
– Ficus amboinensis Kostel.;
– Ficus cerifera Blume;
– Ficus ceriflua Jungh.;
– Ficus chlorocarpa Benth.;
– Ficus compressitora Elmer;
– Ficus cordifolia Blume;
– Ficus domestica Zipp.;
– Ficus domestica Zipp. ex Miq.;
– Ficus ehretioides F.Muell.;
– Ficus ehretioides F.Muell. ex Benth.;
– Ficus garciae Elmer;
– Ficus glochidiifolia Hayata;
– Ficus gummiflua (Miq.) Miq.;
– Ficus ilangoides Elmer;
– Ficus integrifolia Elmer;
– Ficus konishii Hayata;
– Ficus laevigata Blanco;
– Ficus latsoni Elmer;
– Ficus paucinervia Merr.;
– Ficus racemifera Roxb.;
– Ficus subopaca Miq.;
– Ficus subracemosa Blume;
– Ficus sum Gagnep.;
– Ficus sycomoroides Miq.;
– Ficus tenimbrensis S.Moore;
– Ficus variegata f. paucinervia (Merr.) Sata;
– Ficus variegata f. rotundata Sata;
– Ficus variegata subsp. chlorocarpa (Benth.) Benth.;
– Ficus variegata subsp. chlorocarpa (Benth.) Benth. ex King;
– Ficus variegata subsp. garciae (Elmer) Corner;
– Ficus variegata var. chlorocarpa (Benth.) King;
– Ficus variegata var. garciae (Elmer) Corner;
– Ficus variegata var. ilangoides (Elmer) Corner;
– Ficus variegata var. kondang Valeton;
– Ficus variegata var. leles Valeton;
– Ficus variegata var. pilosior Miq.;
– Ficus variegata var. sycomoroides (Miq.) Corner;
– Ficus viridicarpa Corner;
– Sycomorus gummiflua Miq.;
– Urostigma cordifolium (Blume) Gasp.;
– Urostigma javanicum Miq..

Etymology –
The term Ficus is the classical Latin name of the fig tree, a genus already known at the time, probably derived from Hebrew.
The specific epithet variegata comes from the Latin “variegatus, a, um”, that is, variegated, streaked, mottled, multi-coloured, with two or more colors variously arranged, in reference to the color of the fruits.

Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
Ficus variegata is a species present in many parts of Asia, in the Pacific islands and in the extreme south-east of Australia. However, the species is native to Australia (Queensland), China (Fujian, Guangdong, Guangxi, Hainan and Yunnan), Philippines, Japan (Ryukyu Islands), India, Indonesia (Java, Irian Jaya, Kalimantan, Moluccas, Lesser Sunda Islands , Sulawesi and Sumatra), Andaman Islands, Nicobar Islands, Solomon Islands, Malaysia, Myanmar, Papua New Guinea, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.
Its habitat is that of humid forests at low altitudes, as can be seen in southern China. This tree grows in forest gardens and disturbed or open sites in mixed dipterocarp forests at altitudes up to 500 meters; it is often found along rivers and streams or in alluvial sites.

Description –
The Ficus variegata is a short-term evergreen or deciduous tree, dioecious, which grows in height up to about 15 m, but which in nature can exceed 30 m.
The trunk is erect, up to over 1 m in diameter, equipped at the base with tabular roots (flattened roots similar to buttresses). The bark is smooth, grey-brown in colour; abundant milky sap exudes from the wounds.
The leaves are borne by a 2-6.5 cm long petiole; they are alternate, simple, ovate-elliptical with entire, wavy or slightly toothed margin, obtuse or sharp apex and prominent, leathery ribs, 10-25 cm long and 5-15 cm wide, of an intense green color above, pale below; stipules (appendages at the base of the leaf which have the main purpose of protecting it during the initial growth phase) deciduous, ovate-lanceolate, glabrous or slightly pubescent, 1-1.5 cm long.
The inflorescences are sycones; they are cavities with fleshy walls that entirely enclose the flowers, accessible from an apical opening enclosed by 3 tiny scales. The syconia are grouped on short tuberculate branches on a 2-4 cm long peduncle, they arise on the stem and the old branches without leaves (caulifloria); they have a globose, depressed globose or pyriform shape, 2-3.5 cm in diameter, red in color with light green stripes and spots when ripe, with male and female flowers on different individuals.
The fruits are small achenes that contain a single seed. The syconia are grouped on short peduncles 2-4 cm, born on the stem.
Pollination is carried out by Ceratosolen appendiculatus Mayr, 1885, an insect belonging to the Agaonidae family. As is known, each species of Ficus is associated with a specific insect, which in turn can reproduce only in the presence of the species to which it is associated.
The fruits, produced abundantly and continuously throughout the year, are an important source of food for various forest birds and mammals, including some primates, which contribute to the dispersal of the seeds. It propagates by seed, placed superficially on an organic, sandy substrate, kept constantly humid at a temperature of 24-26°C; it also reproduces by tip cutting in spring and layering at the beginning of summer.

Cultivation –
Ficus variegata is an evergreen tree when young but briefly becomes deciduous as it ages. The tree is harvested in the wild for local use as food, medicine, and a source of wood and wax. The wax is sold in local markets.
The plant grows mostly in the wild on a range of soils ranging from sandy to clayey, including calcareous ones.
It is a species widespread in a vast area of south-east Asia, from India to the Pacific islands, but little known outside its areas of origin, present almost exclusively in gardens and botanical collections where it represents one of the points of attraction for the trunk and branches without leaves often almost completely covered by the fruits, which deserves greater diffusion as an ornamental in parks and gardens of tropical and humid subtropical climate zones. Fast growing, it requires full sun or light shade and is not particularly demanding regarding the soil, as long as it is well draining and kept almost constantly humid. When placing it, it is necessary to take into account the superficial and rather invasive root system and must therefore be placed sufficiently far from buildings, roads and pavements.
It is a tree with a unique form of particular fertilization; each species relies on a single, highly specialized species of wasp which in turn is totally dependent on that species of fig to reproduce. The trees produce three types of flowers; male, one long-styled female flower and one short-styled female flower. All three types of flowers are contained in the structure that we usually think of as the fruit.
The female wasp (Ceratosolen appendiculatus) enters a fig tree and lays 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 dig exit tunnels from the fig for the winged females. Females emerge, collect pollen from male flowers, and fly away to find figs whose female flowers are receptive. To support a population of its pollinator, individuals of a Ficus spp. it must flourish asynchronously. A population must exceed a critical minimum size to ensure that at any time of the year at least some plants have overlap in emitting and receiving specific wasps. Without this temporal overlap, short-lived pollinating wasps would become locally extinct.
The fruiting, generous and almost continuous, is an important source of food for forest animals that contribute to the dispersion of the seeds.
Propagation occurs by seed which germinates best at a temperature around 20°C.
It can also be propagated by tip cuttings approximately 4 – 12 cm long, taken from the lateral branches.

Customs and Traditions –
The Ficus variegata was described by Carl Ludwig Blume in 1825. In 1965, E. J. H. Corner updated the species by placing some other Ficus in synonymy with the varieties of F. variegata. Five have been listed: F. variegata var. variegata distributed throughout the species’ range, F. variegata var. chronocarpa from southern China, Hainan Island and Thailand, F. variegata var. garciae described as inhabiting the Pacific islands (Ryukyu Islands, Taiwan and the Philippines), F. variegata var. ilangoides in Luzon and northern Borneo, and F. variegata var. sycomoroides in the Philippines and Borneo. Recently all varieties have been synonymized under Ficus variegata.
This species is known by a wide variety of local common names including: common red-stem fig, green-fruit fig, variegated fig (English); za se rong (China); tangisang bayawak (Philippines); giran-inu-biwa (Japan); gele, gondang, nyawai (Indonesia); kayu, pahobo (Sulawesi); phuuk (Thailand); sung trổ, sung vè, vả rừng (Vietnam).
The dried fruits are sometimes consumed with rice even by local populations. Leaves and bark show therapeutic virtues.
The wood, light and whitish, is used for interior cladding, chests, crafts and in the manufacture of plywood, as well as as fuel. Leaves and bark are used in traditional medicine, particularly for dysentery.
From an ecological point of view, it is underlined, as mentioned, that Ficus variegata is pollinated by wasps of the Ceratosolen genus, as are all fig species of the Sycomorus subgenus. Ficus variegata figs have been reported to be eaten by 41 animal species (5 birds, 15 bats, 7 monkeys, 7 marsupials).
In Australia the fruits are eaten by cassowaries and double-eyed fig parrots.

Preparation Method –
Ficus variegata is a plant used both for food, medicinal and other purposes.
The fruits are edible, and when they dry they are sometimes consumed with rice even by local populations.
Latex is used as a food additive in palm starch.
In the medicinal field the roots are used as an antidote; the bark is used as a remedy against dysentery. The fruit is used as a remedy against dysentery. Latex is applied topically when treating cuts.
Among other uses the tree is a source of wax which is used in the Batik technique (a technique used to color fabrics and other objects such as vases).
The wood is of low quality, but is used for temporary construction, moldings, interior work, paneling, drawers, fruit crates, floats, and knife sheaths; it is also used as fuel.

Guido Bissanti

– Acta Plantarum – Flora of the Italian Regions.
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– GBIF, the Global Biodiversity Information Facility.
– Useful Tropical Plants Database.
– Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (ed.), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.
– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora d’Italia, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Treben M., 2000. Health from the Lord’s Pharmacy, Advice and experiences with medicinal herbs, Ennsthaler Editore.

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Attention: Pharmaceutical applications and food uses are indicated for informational purposes only, they do not represent in any way a medical prescription; we therefore decline any responsibility for their use for healing, aesthetic or food purposes.

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