Characteristics of Natal Fig Tree (Ficus natalensis) in the Wild

Ficus natalensis
Natal Fig or Mutuba (Ficus natalensis) is a species of the strangler fig tree from the Moraceae family. This tree is widespread in northeast South Africa, Uganda, Kenya, Angola, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique.

In Uganda, the bark is harvested without damaging the tree, to make cloth from the bark. Skilled craftsmen incorporate this unique fabric into many modern uses, including fashion, accessories, homewares, interior design, and art. Its vision is to create sustainable jobs in East Africa by meeting the global demand for bark fabrics.

The Natal Fig tree can be harvested annually for up to 40 years. Mature trees can produce up to 200 m2 of fabric individually. The local inhabitants of Africa call this tree by the name Kuswurgvy.


Characteristics of Natal Fig Leaf

Ficus natalensis Leaf
Source: Ng

Natal fig leaves 2-5 mm thick, arranged in a spiral or almost opposite, simple, oval to elliptical sometimes lanceolate 2.5-10 cm × 1-4.5 cm, and both surfaces are smooth. Petiole 0.5-3 cm long and hairless.


Characteristics of Natal Fig Fruit

Ficus natalensis Fruit
Source: Ng

Natal fig fruit pairs and appear in the axillary or sometimes just below the leaf, mother, 1.5-2 cm in diameter, hairless, reddish-orange or yellowish to brown when ripe.


Characteristics of Natal Fig Tree

Ficus natalensis Tree

Natal Fig is a type of epiphytic tree, initially germinating on a host tree high above the ground and then sending fine roots to the ground. The roots gradually get stronger and eventually suffocate the host tree.

In the wild, a mature Natal Fig tree can grow 25-30 meters tall with tens or even hundreds of large aerial roots hanging toward the ground.

This tree can grow from sea level to an altitude of 2,000 m above sea level in wet forest, dry forest, scrub, savanna, and is often found growing in rocky places.


This tree is easy to cultivate, the simplest way is by cuttings. However, you can also grow them from seeds from ripe, fast-growing fruit in tropical climates.


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