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Encyclopedia > Figs

Common Fig leaves and fruit
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Urticales
Family: Moraceae
Genus: Ficus

About 800, including:
Ficus altissima
Ficus americana
Ficus aurea
Ficus benghalensis - Indian Banyan
Ficus benjamina - Weeping Fig
Ficus broadwayi
Ficus carica - Common Fig
Ficus citrifolia
Ficus drupacea
Ficus elastica
Ficus godeffroyi
Ficus grenadensis
Ficus hartii
Ficus lyrata
Ficus macbrideii
Ficus microcarpa - Chinese Banyan
Ficus nota
Ficus obtusifolia
Ficus palmata
Ficus prolixa
Ficus pumila
Ficus racemosa
Ficus religiosa - Bodhi tree
Ficus rubiginosa - Port Jackson fig
Ficus stahlii
Ficus sycomorus
Ficus thonningii
Ficus tinctoria
Ficus tobagensis
Ficus triangularis
Ficus trigonata
Ficus ulmifolia
Ficus vogelii

Ref: ITIS 19081 (http://www.itis.usda.gov/servlet/SingleRpt/SingleRpt?search_topic=TSN&search_value=19081)
as of 2002-08-3

Figs (Ficus) are a genus of about 800 species of woody trees, shrubs and vines in the family Moraceae, native throughout the tropics with a few species extending into the warm temperate zone. The genus includes one species, the Common Fig F. carica, that produces a commercial fruit called a fig; the fruit of many other species are edible though not widely consumed. Other examples of figs include the Banyan and the Peepul (or Bo) tree. Most species are evergreen, while those from temperate areas, and areas with a long dry season, are deciduous.

A fig fruit is derived from a specially adapted flower. The fruit has a bulbous shape (an accessory fruit called a syconium) with a small opening (the ostiole) in the end and a hollow area inside lined with small red edible seeds. The fruit/flower is pollinated by small wasps that crawl through the opening to fertilise the fruit.

The Common Fig Ficus carica, a native of southwest Asia (Turkey east to Afghanistan), is cultivated for its fruit. In the United States, figs are grown in California, Texas, Utah, Oregon, and Washington. Figs can be eaten fresh or dried, and used in jam-making.

Figs come in two sexes: hermaphrodite (called caprifigs because only goats eat them) and female. Fig wasps grow in caprifigs; when they mature, they mate, and the females leave in search of immature figs to lay their eggs in. When the wasp finds one, she pollinates the female flowers but will not lay eggs in the edible fig, only in the caprifig. Thus the edible fig ripens without any wasp frass in it.

When a caprifig ripens, another caprifig must be ready to be pollinated. Tropical figs bear continuously, enabling fruit-eating animals to survive the time between masts. In temperate climes, wasps hibernate in figs, and there are distinct crops. Caprifigs have three crops per year; edible figs have two. The first of the two is small and is called breba; the breba figs are olynths.

Cultural & literary aspects

The Expulsion from the Garden of Eden - fresco depicting a distressed Adam and Eve, with and without fig leaves, by Tommaso Masaccio, 1426-27

In the book of Genesis in the Bible, Adam and Eve clad themselves with fig leaves after eating the "Forbidden fruit" from the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil. Likewise, figleaves, or depictions of figleaves, have long been used to cover the genitals of nude figures in painting and sculpture. Often these fig leaves were added by art collectors or exhibitors long after the original work was completed.

An extraordinarily large self-rooted Wild Willowleaf Fig in South Africa is protected by the Wonderboom Nature Reserve.

See also

External links

  • Fruits of Warm Climates: Fig (http://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/morton/fig.html)
  • California Rare Fruit Growers: Fig Fruit Facts (http://www.crfg.org/pubs/ff/fig.html)
  • North American Fruit Explorers: Fig (http://www.nafex.org/fig.html)
  • Ray's Figs (http://Web.InfoAve.Net/~thegivans/)
  • Fig Fruit Information (http://www.thefruitpages.com/figs.shtml)
  • GodHatesFigs.com (http://www.godhatesfigs.com)

  Results from FactBites:
Fig (3078 words)
The Smyrna fig was brought to California in 1881-82 but it was not until 1900 that the wasp was introduced to serve as the pollinating agent and make commercial fig culture possible.
Large-scale fig producers in California spray ethephon to speed up ripening and then wind-machines are drawn past the trees or helicopter overflights are made to hasten fruit drop, thus shortening the harvest period by as much as 10 days in order to avoid impending rain and insect attack.
Fig trees are prone to attack by nematodes (especially Meloidogyne spp.) and, in the tropics, have been traditionally planted close to a wall or building so that the roots can go underneath and escape damage.
Fig - MSN Encarta (492 words)
The small flowers of the fig plant are borne on the inner surface of a fleshy, hollow organ called a receptacle, and the fruit is the result of further growth of the receptacle.
To ensure pollination in fig orchards, flower branches of the wild fig are suspended in the vicinity of cultivated fig trees, a process known as caprification.
The common commercial fig is classified as Ficus carica, the sycamore fig as ficus sycomorus, and the pipal, or sacred fig, as Ficus religiosa.
  More results at FactBites »



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