An Eco-sustainable World
ArborealSpecies Plant

Ficus superba

Ficus superba

The sea fig or cedar fig, deciduous fig, sand fig (Ficus superba (Miq.) Miq. 1865) is an arboreal species belonging to the Moraceae family.

Systematic –
Eukaryota domain,
Kingdom Plantae,
Division Magnoliophyta,
Class Magnoliopsida,
Rosales Order,
Family Moraceae,
Genus Ficus,
Species F. superba.
The term is basionym:
– Urostigma superbum Miq..
The terms are synonymous:
– Ficus petiolata Reinw.;
– Ficus petiolata Reinw. ex Miq.;
– Ficus tenuipes S.Moore;
– Ficus timorensis Decne.;
– Urostigma accedens 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 superba comes from the Latin “superbus, a, um”, that is, superb, magnificent, in reference to the grandeur of the plant.

Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
Ficus superba is a plant native to Indonesia (Java, Kalimantan, Lesser Sunda Islands, Moluccas and Sulawesi), Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam; we also find it in various parts of south-east Asia.
Its habitat is that of monsoon forests, where it grows from sea level up to around 1800 m above sea level.

Description –
Ficus superba is a deciduous or semi-deciduous tree, hemiepiphytic or lithophytic, which grows up to about 30 m in height.
The trunk is erect and equipped at the base with tabular roots (flattened buttress-like roots that contribute to the support of large trees); the bark is wrinkled and reddish brown in colour; abundant milky sap exudes from the wounds.
The leaves are located on a 4-10 cm long petiole, are arranged in a spiral, simple, ovate-elliptical with entire margin and obtuse or sharp apex, 7-15 cm long and 3.5-7 cm wide, leathery, colored shiny intense green above, lighter 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, pubescent, about 3 cm long.
The inflorescences are cavities with fleshy walls, called sycones, which entirely enclose the flowers, accessible from an apical opening enclosed by 3 tiny scales.
The syconia are carried by a peduncle 0.7-1.5 cm long, they arise on old leavesless branches in pairs or fasciculates, globose, about 2 cm in diameter, of a yellow color tending towards purple dotted with pink when ripe, with female and male flowers simultaneously present in the syconium.
Inside the tiny fruits (achenes) there is only one seed.

Cultivation –
Ficus superba is a semi-epiphytic tree which has the tendency to then completely suppress the plant on which it grows.
However, it is not an obligate semi-epiphytic plant and can be found in forests as a single-stemmed tree.
The pollination of this plant is carried out by an insect belonging to the Agaonidae family (Platyscapa corneri Wiebes 1980) which is specific for this species. 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.
This plant is characterized by its lush foliage and showy fruits, which grow on leafless branches; it could be used very well as an ornamental in parks and large gardens in regions with a humid tropical and subtropical climate, also characterized by marked seasonality.
For its cultivation it requires full sun or light shade in the initial growth phase and has no particular needs regarding the soil, even rocky and poor.
When planting it, however, it is necessary to take into account its superficial and rather invasive root system to plan its correct location, sufficiently far from pavements and roads.
Young plants can be grown in pots for the decoration of both external and internal spaces, in a very bright position, using a draining substrate kept moderately humid, with temperatures, in winter, above 14°C; it is considered a particularly suitable species for bonsai.
The propagation of this plant can take place by seed which must be placed superficially on an organic, sandy substrate, kept constantly humid, in a bright position at a temperature of 24-26 °C; however it can also be reproduced by cutting in spring and layering at the beginning of summer.

Customs and Traditions –
Ficus superba is a plant known by various common names; among these we report: sea fig, cedar fig, deciduous fig, sand fig (English); gedag, jeraka bulu, ulebe (Indonesia); ara laut (Malaysia); krai, sai-liap (Thailand); cây sop, from sop (Vietnam).
In nature, the plant can initially grow as an epiphyte on other trees, surrounding the trunk with its roots which, having reached the ground, end up “strangling” after a certain number of years.
The fruits of this plant represent an important nourishment for various species of birds which contribute to the dispersal of the seeds.
The shoots and young leaves are consumed locally, after cooking, as vegetables.
The wood, light with brown veins, of medium density, has a limited use for crates, boxes and artisanal and artistic items.

Preparation Method –
Ficus superba is a plant that is used in the food sector limited to its natural growth area.
Of this plant, mainly the shoots and young leaves are consumed, which are prepared like vegetables after cooking.

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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