Fig (Ficus bojeri)

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Ficus bojeri tree
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Fig fact file

Fig description

KingdomPlantae
PhylumTracheophyta
ClassMagnoliopsida
OrderUrticales
FamilyMoraceae
GenusFicus (1)

Ficus bojeri is a fairly small fig tree with greyish-brown bark, slender branches and thin, oval-shaped green leaves (3) (4). The leaves, which grow up to 20 centimetres long, have serrated edges and a sand paper-like feel (2) (3). Like other figs, the tiny flowers of this plant are found on the inside of a round, green receptacle (the fig), which measures up to one centimetre in diameter. These ‘fruits’ hang from the trunk of the tree on short stalks up to one centimetre long (2).

Also known as
neant.
Size
Height: up to 15 m (2)
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Fig biology

While little information is available regarding the biology of Ficus bojeri, it is likely to be similar to that of other fig species. Fig trees are pollinated solely by fig wasps, tiny insects just a couple of millimetres long. In turn, fig wasps are only able to breed inside figs; a remarkable example of a mutualistic relationship in which one cannot survive without the other (5).

A female fig wasp, flying around in search of a fig tree, is attracted to specific chemicals given off by the fig when it is ready for pollination. Once located, the female fig wasp squeezes her way into the fig through a tiny opening at the top; a task that is so challenging that her wings and antennae usually break off in the process. She pollinates the stigmas, with pollen carried from the fig she developed in, and then lays her eggs into the ovary of one of the tiny flowers. Here the larvae develop, as does the fig, for a period of three to twenty weeks. Once the fig wasps have reached maturity, they chew their way out into the fig cavity. The males are wingless, and after mating with the females, they chew a hole through the fig wall to allow the females to escape and then die. The females, covered with pollen from the fig from which they emerged, then begin the search for a receptive young fig, in which they will start the cycle over again (5).

It is only after the female fig wasps have left the fig that it ripens, adopting a colour and scent that makes it attractive to fruit-eating animals such as monkeys, birds and bats. These animals, after ingesting the fruit, excrete the seeds at a new location, where a new fig tree will hopefully grow (5).

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Fig range

While some sources say that this fig is found only in the Seychelles (1), others state that it occurs in the Seychelles, Comoro Islands and Madagascar (5).

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Fig habitat

Ficus bojeri grows in forests up to 1,400 metres above sea level (5).

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Fig status

Classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List 2007 (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Vulnerable

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Fig threats

Ficus bojeri has been assessed as being Vulnerable to extinction by the IUCN (1), but it is unclear what threats this little-known species currently faces.

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Fig conservation

There are no known conservation measures currently in place for this species.

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Find out more

For further information on figs see:

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Authentication

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact: arkive@wildscreen.org.uk
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Glossary

Larvae
Stage in an animal’s lifecycle after it hatches from the egg. Larvae are typically very different in appearance to adults; they are able to feed and move around but usually are unable to reproduce.
Mutualistic
A mutualism is an interaction between two different species that benefits both.
Ovary
In plants, known as the gynoecium, the female reproductive organs of a flower.
Pollination
The transfer of pollen grains from the stamen (male part of a flower) to the stigma (female part of a flower) of a flowering plant. This usually leads to fertilisation, the development of seeds and, eventually, a new plant.
Stigmas
The receptive part of the female reproductive organ of a flower. Pollen germinates on the stigma.
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References

  1. IUCN Red List (November, 2007)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org
  2. Wise, R. (1998) A Fragile Eden. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey.
  3. Robertson, S.A. (1989) Flowering Plants of Seychelles. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
  4. Baker, J.G. (1970) Flora of Mauritius and the Seychelles. L. Reeves and Co, London.
  5. Figweb (June, 2008)
    http://www.figweb.org
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Image credit

Ficus bojeri tree  
Ficus bojeri tree

© Dr. Justin Gerlach

Dr. Justin Gerlach
Nature Protection Trust of Seychelles
Seychelles
gerlachs@btinternet.com
http://islandbiodiversity.com

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