An Eco-sustainable World
ArborealSpecies Plant

Ficus dammaropsis

Ficus dammaropsis

The dinner plate fig or highland breadfruit, kapiak (Ficus dammaropsis Diels, 1935) 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. dammaropsis.
The terms are synonymous:
– Dammaropsis kingiana Warb.;
– Ficus dammaropsis var. obtusa Corner.

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 dammaropsis comes from the term Dammara and from the Greek word “ὄψις“ (opsis), i.e. appearance, due to the similarity of the young fruits with those of the Dammara alba Rumph. ex Hassk., 1842 (in turn synonymous with Agathis dammara (Lamb.) Rich. & A. Rich., 1826).

Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
Ficus dammaropsis is a plant native to the highlands and edge of the highlands of New Guinea.
Its natural habitat is that of rainforests, mainly along the banks of watercourses, between 800 and 2750 m above sea level, but more commonly between 1,600 and 1,750 metres.

Description –
Ficus dammaropsis is a dioecious, branched evergreen tree or shrub, often with a disordered habit.
It grows up to 5-10 m and has a smooth greyish bark; abundant milky lymph exudes from the wounds.
The leaves are located on a sturdy petiole; they are alternate, simple, ovate with a chordate base, a sinuous margin, a wavy plate between the ribs and a briefly pointed apex, up to 90 cm in length and 60 cm in width, leathery, of a shiny dark green color above, light yellowish green below; the young leaves are bronze coloured. Stipules (appendages at the base of the leaf which have the main purpose of protecting it during the initial growth phase) double, deciduous, light yellow in colour, 15-28 cm long.
The inflorescences are cavities with fleshy walls, called syconia, which entirely enclose the flowers, accessible from an apical opening.
The syconians are sessile, produced almost continuously; these are formed in the axils of the leaves; they are globose, 6-13 cm in diameter, with male and female flowers on different individuals, covered by imbricated bracts of decreasing size towards the apex where they cover the opening, initially green in colour, then reddish-brown when ripe; the tiny fruits (achenes) contain a single seed.
They are pollinated by the small wasp Ceratosolon abnormis which is specific to this species and which, in turn, can reproduce only in the presence of the species to which it is associated.

Cultivation –
Ficus dammaropsis is a shrub or tree whose edible leaves are commonly consumed in New Guinea, where the plant is collected in the wild and sometimes also cultivated.
The plant also has local medicinal uses and is a source of fiber.
As with other trees the species has a unique form of fertilization, each species relying 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, a long-styled female flower and a short-styled female flower, often called the gall flower. All three types of flowers are contained in the structure that we usually think of as the fruit.
The female wasp (Ceratosolen abnormis Wiebes) 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 overlapping emission and reception of fig wasps. Without this temporal overlap, short-lived pollinating wasps would become locally extinct.
Due to its tolerance to cold, this plant is grown as an ornamental tree in frost-free climates.
It is cultivated in tropical gardens for its large ornamental leaves that reach 90 cm. It has unusual globose sessile syconia, 6-13 cm, with imbricate bracts, decreasing towards the apex, which fade from green to reddish-brown when ripe.
It is a plant considered by many to be the most ornamental of the genus due to its spectacular leaves. It can be cultivated in regions with a humid tropical and subtropical climate. It can be cultivated in a sheltered position in milder temperate-warm regions where temperatures around 0 °C are very short-term exceptions. It requires a position in full sun or slightly shaded and fertile, draining, slightly acidic to slightly alkaline soils, kept almost constantly humid, but without stagnation.
Reproduction occurs by seed, placed superficially in a draining substrate rich in organic substance kept humid at a temperature of 24-28 °C, by cutting and layering.

Customs and Traditions –
Ficus dammaropsis is a plant known by various common names; among these are: dinner plate fig, highland breadfruit (English); embehe, kaje, kapiak, shuwat, yakati (New Guinea).
The lowland form of this species, commonly found below 900 metres, is recognized as a distinct species (Ficus brusii Weiblen, 2019).
This plant can be found at the Melbourne Botanic Gardens, located in the “Yucca Bed”.
Its fruits, the largest figs in the world (syconia), are up to 15 centimeters in diameter; they are edible but rarely consumed except as an emergency food. The young leaves are pickled or cooked and eaten as a vegetable along with pork by highlanders.
In the highlands of New Guinea the young leaves, which are frequently found for sale in the local markets, and the boiled young fruits are consumed as vegetables by the natives, the large leaves are also used to wrap foods during cooking; the outer layer of the fruits is edible and is sometimes consumed in times of famine. The fibers obtained from the bark are used to make ropes, fabrics, capes, bags, headdresses and various other handicrafts.
Among other uses, it should be remembered that a fiber is obtained from the bark. It is used to make ropes and clothing.
The fibrous branches can be used to clean teeth. The plants are also used in agroforestry techniques in the Pacific islands.
The wood is generally of low quality, light, soft and not very resistant. It is sometimes used for purposes such as light construction, digging sticks, yam poles, etc.
Wood is also used as fuel and sometimes to start fires by friction.

Preparation Method –
Ficus dammaropsis is a plant used for various purposes including: food, medicinal, ornamental, agroforestry and to obtain various products.
The fruits are eaten cooked or raw.
The outer layer is eaten raw and the young fruits are boiled and eaten as vegetables.
The young leaves are eaten cooked. The large young leaves are eaten as a vegetable.
In the medicinal field it is said that a daily drink of stem latex relieves a strong cough.
The leaves of some species are used to wrap food for cooking.
The leaves of some species are quite rough and can be used as a substitute for sandpaper and to clean vases.

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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