Main Narrative » Fancy Foliage

Fig family, Moraceae

By Nicole Tarnowsky

Feb 7 2019

Ficus carica L., the edible common fig has been cultivated for millenia. The fig family, Moraceae, includes 850 species occuring in the tropics all around the world.

The Rubber Plant, Ficus elastica Roxb. ex Hornem., native to Southeast Asia and the Fiddle Leaf Fig, Ficus lyrata Warb., native to western Africa are both trees commonly cultivated as houseplants.

The Moraceae family possess many interesting characters. Some Ficus trees have thick buttresses at the base of their trunks to help theses huge trees stay upright in very shallow soil. Some have aerial roots that grow above ground. Some are "stranglers" meaning they start on the branches of another tree and grow down until they reach the ground, sometimes killing the original tree. All members of the fig family produce a milky latex that you can see if you cut a stem.

Perhaps the most interesting trait is their flowers. Figs produce a specialized inflorescence (group of flowers) called a syconium which is almost completely sealed off, with the flowers inside. They can only be pollinated by tiny specialized wasps who can enter the tiny opening, lay their eggs and pollinate the flowers.

A Closer Look