Characteristics of Climbing Fig (Ficus sagittata) in the Wild

Ficus sagittata
The climbing fig or 羊乳榕 (Ficus sagittata syn Ficus radicans) is a species of fig in the family Moraceae, native to southern China, Indochina, and Malaysia. Initially, this plant grows as an epiphyte. With age, it can become a tree.

Climbing figs often start life on tree branches and can eventually send out aerial roots which, once they reach the ground, provide additional nutrients that help the plant grow stronger.

Climbing fig aerial roots can completely encircle the host tree trunk, limiting its growth, coupled with stronger growth, and can cause the host tree to lose out and kill the tree.

Ficus sagittata is sometimes taken from the wild to be processed into traditional medicine. This plant is also cultivated as an ornamental vine.

 

Characteristics of Climbing Fig Leaf

Ficus sagittata Leaf
Source: inaturalist.org/gancw1

The leaves are alternate and stemmed, have rough leaf blades that are oval to oval in shape with a round to heart-shaped base, dark green above, light green below, and the size is 4-25 x 1.5×12 cm. The leaf blades are long arrow-shaped and grow hair underneath when they are young.

 

Characteristics of Climbing Fig Fruit

Ficus sagittata Fruit
Source: flickr.com/Ahmad Fuad Morad

The fruit has a characteristic long neck that resembles part of a stalk, in pairs (and sometimes in clusters in the leaf axils), 2 cm in diameter, bright red or purple in color when ripe, and develops singly.

This plant relies on one highly specialized species of wasp which itself depends entirely on that fig species for reproduction.

The female fig wasp enters the fig fruit and lays eggs on the short-haired female flower while pollinating the long-haired female flower. The wingless male fig wasp emerges first, fertilizes the emerging female, and then tunnels out of the fig for the winged female. The female emerges, collects pollen from the male flowers, and flies in search of figs that the female flowers will accept.

 

Characteristics of Climbing Fig Tree

Ficus sagittata Tree
Source: wikimedia.org/Daderot

Climbing fig grows on the ground or climbs trees in the lowlands and rainforests to an altitude of 1,500 m asl.

This plant can be propagated from seed seedlings and branch cuttings. It grows rapidly at the end of the rainy season and early summer.

 

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