Characteristics of Small-leaved Fig (Ficus obliqua) in the Wild

Ficus obliqua
The small-leaved fig (Ficus obliqua) is a fig tree in the family Moraceae, native to eastern Australia, New Guinea, eastern Indonesia to Sulawesi, and islands in the southwest Pacific Ocean.

Ficus obliqua was first described by the German naturalist Georg Forster in 1786 based on the type of material collected in Vanuatu.

Small-leaved fig initially lives as passengers (epiphytes) on other trees or rocks (lithophyte), where when they grow up they take the life of the tree they are on.

CONFUSED WITH OTHER FICUS

Historically, there has been some confusion between Ficus obliqua and Ficus rubiginosa. Ficus obliqua can be distinguished by its smaller fruits on shorter stems and glabrous (hairless) leaves, in addition, the petioles have to ascend hyaline hairs. Some forms of Ficus rubiginosa have bare leaves and petioles while others are both covered with fine hairs. Syconia Ficus obliqua is smaller, measuring 4.3-11.9 mm in length and 4.4-11.0 mm in diameter, compared to the Ficus’ 7.4-17.3 mm in length and 7.6-17.3 mm in diameter rubiginose.

 

USAGE OF SMALL-LEAVED FIG

Known as baka or baka ni viti in Fiji, Ficus obliqua has many parts used in traditional Fijian medicine and was previously considered a sacred tree there.

The sap has been used to treat sore or swollen joints and ulcers or diluted with water and drunk to increase breast milk. The liquid extracted from the root bark has been used to treat headaches or, when diluted, to promote health after childbirth, and the leaves are applied to genital sores. This species is also traditionally used as a natural remedy to treat boils in Samoa and Tonga.

 

Ficus obliqua is found growing naturally in southern New South Wales northward along the coast and the Great Dividing Range to the tip of the Cape York Peninsula in north Queensland. Outside of Australia, this tree occurs in New Guinea and offshore islands, through eastern Indonesia to Sulawesi in the west and east to the southwest Pacific, where it is found in New Caledonia, Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, and Vanuatu.

 

Characteristics of Small-leaved Fig Leaf

Ficus obliqua Leaf
Source: inaturalist.org/gregtasney

Glossy green leaves are elliptical to oblong and 5-8 cm long by 2-3.5 cm wide, with petioles 1-2 cm long. They are arranged alternately on the stem.

 

Characteristics of Small-leaved Fig

Ficus obliqua Fruit
Source: inaturalist.org/ryanthughes

The fruit is round, 6-10 mm in diameter, yellow and turns orange or red with dark red dots after ripening during April to July.

Like all figs, the fruit is known as a Syconium, with tiny flowers emerging from the inner surface.

Ficus obliqua is monoecious, both male and female flowers are produced by the same tree and are actually in the same fruit. In any fruit, the female flowers ripen several weeks before the male flowers.

 

Characteristics of Small-leaved Fig Tree

Ficus obliqua Tree
Source: inaturalist.org/themeda

Small-leaved fig grows as a large tree 50-60 meters high with a similar crown width and a trunk diameter of up to 3 meters. This tree has thin, smooth gray bark with lighter colored lenticels.

The small-leaved fig prefers soil with a high nutrient and water content, in the wild, the tree grows in the rocky, sandy soils of the Sydney region. Its habitat is a subtropical rainforest with a warm to humid climate.

Ficus obliqua is an elegant shade tree for large gardens or yards and can adapt to different soils. The famous specimen at Mick Ryan Park, Milton on the south coast of New South Wales stands 14 meters high and 38 meters wide and is a local landmark.

Small-leaved fig trees drop large amounts of fruit and leaves and leave a mess under the tree. Although it is used less frequently in bonsai than Ficus rubiginosa, Ficus obliqua is very suitable for use in growing medium ornamental trees. Its small leaves and characteristic thickened trunk provide optimal attributes for a 1-2 meter tall tree. Small-leaved figs are also suitable for use as indoor trees with low, medium, or bright light.

 

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