Characteristics of Sycamore Fig (Ficus sycomorus) in the Wild

Ficus sycomorus
Sycamore fig or Fig-mulberry (Ficus sycomorus) is a species of fig native to southern Africa. It is also found growing naturally in Lebanon, the southern Arabian Peninsula, Cyprus, Madagascar (in highly localized areas), Israel, Palestine, and Egypt. In its natural habitat, this tree is usually found in fertile soil along rivers and mixed forests.

A 2015 study showed that the sycamore tree was brought to Israel by the Philistines during the Iron Age, along with Opium (Opium poppy) and Cumin (Cuminum cyminum).

The sycamore fig requires the presence of the symbiotic wasp Ceratosolen arabicus to reproduce sexually, and this insect has become extinct in Egypt.

In tropical areas where wasps are common, a complex mini-ecosystem involving wasps, nematodes, other parasitic wasps, and a variety of larger predators revolves around the life cycle of figs. The random production of fruit from trees in such an environment ensures their constant presence by the insects and animals that make up this ecosystem.

In the East, the Sycamore fig is a very important ornamental tree and its use is very wide. It has branches that spread widely and provide shade.

HISTORY OF SYCAMORE FIG

Ancient Egyptians cultivated this species “almost exclusively”.

Relics of Ficus sycomorus begin to appear at the predynastic level and in numbers from the early third millennium BC.

Some of the mummified coffins in Egypt were made from the wood of the Ficus sycomorus tree.

The Sycamore fig tree was also planted in front of the tomb of King Mentuhotep II in Deir el-Bahari.

Zohary and Hopf note that “fruit and wood, and sometimes twigs, were abundantly placed in the tombs of the Early, Middle and Late Kingdom of Egypt.”

 

SYCAMORE FIG IN RELIGION

Judaism and Christianity – In the Bible, Sycomore fig is mentioned seven times in the Old Testament (Hebrew shiḳmah: Strong number 8256) and once in the New Testament (oραία sykomoraia or sykomorea: Strong number 4809). Although unusual in Palestine, the Sycomore fig was a very popular and valuable fruit tree in Jericho and Canaan.

Kikuyu Religion – Sycomore fig is a sacred tree. All sacrifices for Ngai (or Murungu), the supreme creator, were made under this tree. Whenever the Sycomore fig tree falls, it symbolizes a bad omen and rituals must be performed by the elders in the community. Some of the ceremonies performed under the Sycomore fig tree are still performed today.

 

Characteristics of Sycamore Fig Leaf

Ficus sycomorus Leaf
Source: inaturalist.org/karoopixie

The leaves are heart-shaped with a rounded apex, 15 cm long and 10 cm wide, and arranged in a circle around the twig. They are dark green above and lighter in color with prominent yellow veins below, and both surfaces are rough to the touch. The petiole is 0.5-3 cm long and pubescent.

 

Characteristics of Sycamore Fig

Ficus sycomorus Fruit
Source: inaturalist.org/bahleman

The fruit is 2-3 cm in diameter and edible, light green when young and turning yellow or red when ripe. They are borne in thick clusters on long branches or leaf axils. Flowering and fruiting occur throughout the year, peaking from July to December.

 

Characteristics of Sycamore Fig Tree

Ficus sycomorus Tree
Source: inaturalist.org/karoopixie

Sycomore fig grows to a medium-sized tree up to 20 meters high and has a fairly large spread of branches, with a dense round crown.

The bark is yellowish-green to orange and peels off in thin strips to reveal the yellow inner bark. Like all fig trees, all parts of the Sycomore fig tree contain latex when injured.

 

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