Common Fig leaves and fruit
|Scientific classification |
About 800, including:
Ficus benghalensis - Indian Banyan
Ficus benjamina - Weeping Fig
Ficus carica - Common Fig
Ficus microcarpa - Chinese Banyan
Ficus religiosa - Bodhi tree
Ficus rubiginosa - Port Jackson fig
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
depicting a distressed Adam and Eve, with and without fig leaves, by Tommaso Masaccio
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.
- 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)