Characteristics of Creeping Fig (Ficus pumila) in the Wild

Ficus pumila
Creeping fig or Climbing fig (Ficus pumila) is a species of a vine native to East Asia (China, Japan, Vietnam) and has been naturalized in various regions around the world. The Latin name of this plant corresponds to “pumilus” which means dwarf, which refers to the very small leaves of the plant.

As the name suggests, “Creeping Fig” shows, this plant has a creeping habit and is often used in gardens and landscapes where it covers the ground and climbs trees or walls.

Ficus pumila does not tolerate harsh frosts, and in temperate climates, it can only be seen as an ornamental plant and is not found in the wild.

Ficus pumila has been awarded the Royal Horticultural Society of Garden Merit.

In the tropics, the Creeping fig can become an invasive plant if its growth is not controlled. When climbing a building, the wooden vines stick to it and potentially damage the surface.

There are currently four types of Creeping figs that have been recorded, these include:

  • Ficus pumila var. awkeotsang – the leaves are larger.
  • Ficus pumila var. quercifolia – oak-like leaves.
  • Ficus pumila ‘Curly’ – the leaves are curly and wrinkled.
  • Ficus pumila ‘Variegata’ & Ficus pumila ‘Snowflake’ – foliage has variegated colors.

Ficus pumila var. awkeotsang is used in cooking in Taiwan. The seeds are cracked and the gel is extracted from the surface with water, allowed to harden, and forms a jelly known in Taiwan as aiyu jelly or aiyuzi (愛玉子) and in Singapore as ice jelly (文頭雪).

 

Characteristics of Creeping Fig Leaf

Ficus pumila Leaf
Source: inaturalist.org/pseudoshuigeeee

The leaves are oval, heart-shaped, asymmetrical, with opposite veins. Juvenile leaves are much smaller and thinner than mature leaves.

 

Characteristics of Creeping Fig Fruit

Ficus pumila Fruit
Source: inaturalist.org/interleukine

The fruit is oval, up to 5cm long, pale green when young, and yellowish when ripe. The fruit is not edible.

Special fruit Ficus pumila var. awkeotsang has many tiny seeds containing a substance that, when crushed and mixed with water, takes the form of a gelatinous mass.

 

Characteristics of Creeping Fig Tree

Ficus pumila Tree
Source: inaturalist.org/isfs0000655

A creeping fig is an evergreen plant that grows vines. It can climb trees or walls up to 10 meters high (usually coconut trees) and is generally only 2-4 meters high on walls and sides of roads.

 

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