An Eco-sustainable World
ArborealSpecies Plant

Ficus auriculata

Ficus auriculata

The Roxburgh fig (Ficus auriculata Lour., 1790) 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. auriculata.
The following terms are synonymous:
– Covellia macrophylla (Roxb. & Buch.-Ham. ex Sm.) Miq.;
– Ficus beipeiensis S.S.Chang;
– Ficus cochinchinensis Lour.;
– Ficus hainanensis Merr. & Chun;
– Ficus hamiltoniana Wall.;
– Ficus imperialis G.W.Johnson & R.Hogg;
– Ficus macrocarpa H.Lév. & Vaniot;
– Ficus macrophylla Roxb.;
– Ficus macrophylla Roxb. & Buch.-Ham. ex Sm.;
– Ficus oligodon Miq.;
– Ficus pomifera Wall. ex King;
– Ficus regia Miq.;
– Ficus rotundifolia Roxb.;
– Ficus roxburghii Wall. ex Steud.;
– Ficus sclerocarpa Griff.;
– Ficus scleroptera Griff.;
– Tremotis cordata Raf..

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 auriculata comes from the Latin “auricula”, meaning ear, in reference to the shape of the leaf.

Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
Ficus auriculata is a plant native to China (Guangdong, Guangxi, Guizhou, Hainan, Sichuan, Xizang and Yunnan), Bhutan, India, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Thailand and Vietnam.
Its natural habitat is that of the rainforests along the rivers and in the valleys up to around 2100 m above sea level; it is often found along the banks of watercourses.

Description –
The Ficus auriculata is a plant that grows in the form of a small evergreen or semi-deciduous tree or shrub. It grows up to 10 m tall; it has an expanded foliage with a trunk up to 45 cm in diameter and gray-brown bark; the young branches are thin, reddish brown, pubescent, with the leaves concentrated in the terminal part.
The species is functionally dioecious (there are functionally male-only flowering plants, and female plants that produce edible fruit).
The leaves are located on a sturdy petiole, 5-20 cm long; they are alternate, ovate-cordate in shape with slightly toothed margin, 10-40 cm long and 8-30 cm or more wide, glabrous above, pubescent below, with evident ribs; the young leaves are red.
The inflorescences are sycones, that is, cavities with fleshy walls that entirely enclose the flowers, accessible from an apical opening enclosed by tiny scales.
The syconia are reddish brown in color when ripe, produced in clusters on particular branches without leaves at the base of the trunk or directly on the main branches (cauliflory), they are pear-shaped or globose depressed, 4-8 cm in diameter, on a robust peduncle pubescent 4-6 cm long, with only female or male flowers inside (dioecious species).
For fruiting the presence of its pollinating insect is required. As is known, each Ficus species is associated with a specific insect belonging to the Agaonidae family (in this case it is the Ceratosolen emarginatus Mayr, 1906), which in turn can reproduce only if the Ficus species to which it is associated is present; the fruits are tiny achenes containing a single seed.

Cultivation –
Ficus auriculata is an evergreen tree that is harvested in the wild for its edible fruits, medicinal uses and for its leaves, which are used as dishes. The tree is cultivated in India and from Myanmar to Vietnam, in southwestern China and in Brazil for its edible fruit; furthermore, it is sometimes grown as an ornamental plant.
In pots it is a very ornamental species, suitable for large bright environments; watering must be regular in summer, reduced in winter, allowing the surface layer of the soil to dry out, and temperatures above 10 °C.
For its cultivation, keep in mind that it is a plant of the humid tropics and lowlands, where it is found at altitudes of up to 1,700 meters. It grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are between 15 and 25°C, but can tolerate 12-32°C.
Mature plants can be killed by temperatures at or below -2°C, although new growth can be severely damaged at 0°C.
It prefers an average annual rainfall between 1,200 and 1,900 mm, but tolerates 900 – 2,400 mm and grows in full sun and light shade,
from a pedological point of view it prefers a pH between 5.5 and 6.5, tolerating 5 – 7 and prefers loose and humid soils, rich in organic substance.
Furthermore, the plant needs protection from dry winds and has a moderate growth rate.
The plant is not very resistant to fire.
The fruits form in large clusters on the trunk, on thin branches arising from the trunk or even on the roots of the plant. The base, therefore, is often covered with hundreds of fruits.
Fig trees have 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 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, which is spread on the surface of the substrate kept humid at a temperature of 20-22 °C, by cutting and layering.

Customs and Traditions –
Ficus auriculata is a plant known by various common names; among these the following are reported: eared strangler fig, elephant ear fig tree, Eve’s apron, Roxburgh fig (English); da guo rong (Chinese); figuier à oreilles d’éléphant, figuier de l’Himalaya (French); tirmal, tunla (Hindi); nimaaro (Nepali); figueira brava, figueira-da-India (Portuguese); higuera de Roxburgh, higuera del Himalaya (Spanish); Roxburgh-feige (German).
The fruits are edible and are eaten raw or cooked, for example in curry, or used to make jams, the leaves are used locally as fodder. Parts of the plant are used in traditional medicine for various pathologies; laboratory studies have highlighted the antioxidant activity of bark extracts.
The young leaves produced by the apical buds of the branches are of a shade of reddish colour, they progressively become green with growth, the back of the bright green leaves is smooth, while the lighter ventral part is tuberculate. The leaves are slightly toothed (unusual in the Ficus genus).
The leaves are used as plates and the wood is hard and is used to make household utensils as fuel.
Other uses include agroforestry uses. The tree is planted in erosion control programs.

Preparation Mode –
Ficus auriculata is a plant grown for both edible, medicinal and ornamental use.
The fruits are eaten raw or cooked and have a sweet taste. They are used in the preparation of jams, juices and curries.
Unripe fruits are used in salads.
In the medicinal field, the latex of the stems is applied to cuts and wounds.
Parts of the plant are rubbed on bee stings to soothe them.
The fruit can have a laxative action.
The roasted fruit is used in the treatment of diarrhea and dysentery.

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.

Photo source:

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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *