An Eco-sustainable World
ArborealSpecies Plant

Ficus racemosa

Ficus racemosa

The cluster fig or red river fig, gular (Ficus racemosa L., 1753) 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. racemosa.
The following terms are synonymous:
– Covellia glomerata (Roxb.) Miq.;
– Covellia mollis Miq.;
– Ficus acidula King;
– Ficus chittagonga Miq.;
– Ficus glomerata Roxb.;
– Ficus glomerata var. chittagonga (Miq.) King;
– Ficus glomerata var. miquelii King;
– Ficus glomerata var. mollis (Miq.) King;
– Ficus goolereea Roxb.;
– Ficus henrici King;
– Ficus leucocarpa (Miq.) Miq.;
– Ficus mollis (Miq.) Miq.;
– Ficus racemosa subsp. vesca (F.Muell. ex Miq.) Barrett;
– Ficus racemosa var. miquelii (King) Corner;
– Ficus racemosa var. mollis (Miq.) Barrett;
– Ficus racemosa var. racemosa;
– Ficus racemosa var. vesca (F.Muell. ex Miq.) M.F.Barrett;
– Ficus semicostata F.M.Bailey;
– Ficus trichocarpa Decne.;
– Ficus trichocarpa f. glabrescens Engl.;
– Ficus vesca F.Muell.;
– Ficus vesca F.Muell. ex Miq.;
– Urostigma leucocarpum 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 racemosa comes from the Latin “racemósus, a, um”, that is, racemose, full of bunches, for the syconia often arranged in racemes.

Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
Ficus racemosa is a plant native to Australia (northern Western Australia, Queensland and Northern Territory), Bangladesh, Cambodia, China (Guangxi, Guizhou and Yunnan), India, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Nepal, New Guinea, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam).
Its habitat is open and deciduous forests, swampy areas, common along river banks in the lowlands and occasionally in streams at altitudes between 100 and 1,700 meters in southern China.

Description –
The Ficus racemosa is a deciduous, monoecious, evergreen or briefly deciduous arboreal species, often with irregular foliage, which can reach a height of 18 m (and even more) and unlike other tropical species of the Ficus genus, it is more rarely equipped of aerial roots.
The bark is smooth and gray to reddish-brown in color; the trunk is up to about 1 m in diameter, sometimes provided at the base with tabular roots (flattened buttress-like roots that contribute to its support) and possibly with a few short aerial roots from the branches.
The leaves are located on a slightly pubescent petiole 2-7 cm long, are alternate, simple, ovate-lanceolate or elliptical with obtuse or subacute apex and entire margin, 5-18 cm long and 3-8 cm wide, of an intense green color shiny above, lighter and opaque below, with 4-8 pairs of prominent lateral veins, together with the central one, on the lower surface. Stipules (appendages at the base of the leaf that protect it in the initial growth phase) ovate-triangular, 1.5-2 cm long and 0.5 cm wide, pubescent, semi-persistent.
The inflorescences are cavities with fleshy walls that enclose the flowers, called syconia, accessible to the pollinating insect through a small apical opening (ostiole) covered by 5-6 bracts, which when ripe form a false fruit, the fig.
These are syconia arranged numerously in dense clusters directly from the trunk or main branches without leaves (caulifloria), from globose-depressed to pyriform, 2.5-3.5 cm in diameter, initially green, then reddish or orange to maturity, often with darker streaks; the true fruits are tiny and contain a single seed about 1 mm long.
As with other species of the Ficus genus, this plant is associated with a specific pollinator insect from the Agaonidae family (Ceratosolen fuscipes Mayr, 1885) which in turn can reproduce only if the Ficus species to which it is associated is present.

Cultivation –
Ficus racemosa is an evergreen tree that is harvested in the wild for local use as food and medicine.
It is often cultivated, both for its fruits and as a shade tree in plantations and as an ornamental tree in parks, large gardens, etc.
This plant, along with other Ficus, forms an important element of the lowland rainforest, both as canopy trees and understory. Most species prefer per-humid forests, but many are found in areas with monsoon climates and in teak forests, including places where the terrain is drier.
It is a tree widely distributed in nature in south-east Asia, particularly in India, and also cultivated in villages for its fruits, uses in traditional medicine and as a shade tree, sacred to Buddhism and Hinduism, it plays an important role in the traditions and rites of local populations.
It requires full sun or light shade and can be used as an isolated specimen in large gardens and parks of the tropical and humid subtropical climate regions, where it represents a point of attraction for the clusters of fruits scattered on the trunk and the main branches. It has no particular needs regarding the soil, as long as it is draining and preferably kept constantly humid; it is also an excellent subject to grow in a bonsai pot.
It is a fire-resistant and fast-growing plant and, as mentioned, their fertilization is ensured by a specific insect.
The mechanism is as follows: the female fig wasp enters a fig 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.
Reproduction occurs by seed, freshly buried in a sandy draining substrate kept humid at a temperature of 24-26 °C, and by cuttings and layering.

Customs and Traditions –
Ficus racemosa is a plant known by various common names; among these we report: cluster fig, country fig (English); ju guo rong (China); acts (Cambodia); ambar, arri, atthi, bodda, dimiri, dumur, gular, marum, paidi, rumadi, sadaaphala, tacanati, tanu, tumparam, udambara (from Sanskrit उडुम्बर), udambarumu, udumbara, umbar, vayamam, yajnanga, yatavu (India); arah, crattok loa, elo (Indonesia); dua kiengz (Laos); tangkol (Malaysia); atti, mayen, thapan, umbar (Myanmar); dumri, gular, udumbara (Nepal); gular, rumbal, umber (Pakistan); atteeka (Singapore); attikka (Sri Lanka); duea kliang, duea nam, ma duea (Thailand); cây sung, sung (Vietnam).
It is a sacred plant for Hinduism and Buddhism.
In Hinduism, according to the Shatapatha Brahmana, the Audumbara tree was created by the strength of Indra, the chief of the gods, which came out of his flesh when he indulged too much in soma. From his hair flowed the thought of him, and became millet; from his skin flowed his honor and became the aśvattha tree (Ficus religion); from his flesh flowed his strength, and became the udumbara tree (Ficus glomerata); from his bones flowed his sweet drink, which became the nyagrodha tree (Ficus indica); from his marrow flowed his drink, the juice of Soma, which became rice: in this way his energies, or vital powers, came out of him.
In the Atharva Veda, this fig is given importance as a means of acquiring prosperity and defeating enemies. For example, regarding an amulet from the Audumbara tree, a hymn (AV xix, 31) extols:
The Lord of amulets is you, the most powerful: in wealth
ruler who generated riches,
These earnings are deposited in all great treasures. Amulet,
win: far from us banish malice and indigence,
and hunger.
You are strength, plant strength in me: you are wealth, like this
grant me riches.
You are abundant, so prosper me with abundance: master of the house, listen
the petition of a head of family.
The tree was described in the story of Raja Harischandra of the Ikshvaku dynasty, that the crown was a branch of this Audumbara tree, set in a gold circlet. Furthermore, the throne (simhasana) was constructed of this wood and the royal personage rose onto it on his knees, singing to the gods to ascend with him, which they did, although invisible.
It has also been worshiped as the abode under which Lord Dattatreya teaches that to teach one must first learn from others, no matter how small or great. There is always something to learn from the One and to learn new things one must learn to unlearn as time goes by. The tree is seen planted at all places associated with Lord Dattatreya who is seen as a Rishi icon, a sage representing all three members of the trinity of Hinduism – Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva (Creator, Preserver and destroyer) necessary so that everyone can learn by unlearning what is obsolete. this is the plan of evolution in analogy. Its leaves are an indispensable part of many Hindu havans.
In Buddhism both the tree and the flower are referred to as Audumbara (Sanskrit, Pali; Devanagari: औदुंबर). Udumbara may also refer to the blue lotus flower (nila-udumbara, “blue udumbara”). The udumbara flower appears in chapters 2 and 27 of the Lotus Sutra, an important Mahayana Buddhist text. The Japanese word udon-ge (優曇華, literally “udon/udumbara flower”) was used by Dōgen Zenji to refer to the flower of the udumbara tree in chapter 68 of the Shōbōgenzō (“Treasure of the Eye of the True Dharma”). Dōgen places udonge in the context of Gautama Buddha’s Flower Sermon on Vulture Peak. Udonge is also used to refer to the eggs of the lace bug. Eggs are laid in a flower-like pattern, and its shape is used for divination in Asian fortune-telling.
In Theravada Buddhism, the plant is said to have been used as a tree to achieve enlightenment (bodhi) by the 26th Lord Buddha, Konaagama (Sinhala: කෝණාගම).
In the food sector, the fruits of this plant are consumed locally as they are or as a side dish or in the form of preserves. The fruits are commonly eaten as vegetables after the seeds have been discarded and made into stir-fries and curries.
The Ovambo people call the fruit of the fig bunch eenghwiyu and use it to distill ombike, their traditional liquor.
Various parts of the plant are also used in traditional medicine, particularly Indian, for various pathologies; laboratory studies have highlighted the presence of compounds with analgesic, antidiarrheal, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antipyretic, antioxidant and hypoglycemic activities susceptible to further investigation.
It is a very popular plant in Ayurvedic medicine. The leaves, fruits, bark, latex and roots are used to treat various pathologies including diabetes, liver disease, diarrhea, inflammatory disorders, hemorrhoids, urinary tract disorders.
In the ecological field, the leaves of the plant are an important food for the caterpillars of the Euploea sylvester butterfly of northern Australia and many birds and mammals including the Phayre’s langur (Trachypithecus phayrei). The fruits are the favorite food of the common Indian macaque.
Among other uses, the bark of F. racemosa is reported to be used as a home remedy. In India, the bark is rubbed on a stone with water to form a paste, which can be applied to boils or mosquito bites. The paste is left to dry on the skin and reapplied after a few hours. The rough leaves of the plant can also be used to remove caterpillar bristles lodged in the skin. A common folk remedy is to lightly rub the affected area with a leaf, which effectively removes stinging hairs.
In the agroforestry field, the tree is grown to provide shade for the coffee plants.
It is used for the stabilization of slopes, ravines and river banks because it produces a deep and widespread root system.
The leaves provide valuable mulch.
Furthermore, the plant is used as a rootstock for the common fig (Ficus carica).
The bark contains tannin.
Latex is used in the production of water-resistant paper and as a plasticizer for Hevea rubber.
The wood, straw-coloured, is coarse-grained, light, soft and porous. It is not a durable wood, although it lasts well under water, and therefore is used for well frames. Wood is used for low-quality purposes and items such as minor constructions, cheap furniture, packing crates, moldings, laundry tubs, fruit crates, etc.
It is also used as fuel.

Preparation Mode –
Ficus racemosa is a plant that is used in both the food and medicinal fields.
The fruits are eaten raw or cooked; They have a sweet but rather bland flavour. They are used in various preserves and side dishes.
Unripe fruits are pickled and used in soups; they can be dried and ground into a flour, then eaten with sugar and milk.
Toasted fruit powder is a valuable breakfast food.
In times of famine, the unripe fruit is pounded, kneaded with flour and transformed into flatbreads.
The leaves are eaten as a vegetable; the young shoots are eaten raw or cooked.
The roots can be cut to provide a liquid that can be drunk like water.
In the medicinal field the leaves are used in the treatment of diarrhea.
The bark is astringent and is used in the treatment of hematuria, menorrhagia and hemoptysis.
The fruit is astringent and is used in the treatment of hematuria, menorrhagia and hemoptysis.
The fruit, when filled with sugar, is considered very refreshing.
A fluid that exudes from the cut roots of the tree is considered a powerful tonic when drunk over several days.
The sap is a folk remedy in Bombay, which is applied topically to mumps and other inflammatory glandular enlargements, and is also used in the treatment of gonorrhea.
The root is chewed as a treatment for tonsillitis.

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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