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9 Species of Fig Trees

Members of the Genus Ficus

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Fig trees, shrubs and lianas are found in the genus Ficus, which is a part of the fig or mulberry family (Moraceae). Most of them are found in the tropical regions of the world. There are some that can live in the warmer temperate areas. Many species may turn invasive in the right location.

In areas where the fig trees cannot live outside, they are commonly used as houseplants. Weeping figs, rubber trees and fiddleleaf figs are popular.  They are also used in creating bonsai.

Many species of Ficus have aerial roots and are epiphytes (plants that grow on other plants) or hemiepiphytes (starts off the same as the epiphytes, but the roots eventually reach the ground).

The ficus genera is distinguished by their fruit, which is called a syconium.  Both male and female flowers are found within a hollow stem (the "fruit" we are familiar with). They are pollinated by different wasp species.  These flowers develop seeds, which are the true fruits.  

Like the strawberry, what we think of as the fruit is really a receptacle and is regarded as an accessory fruit. Fig fruits are considered to be an aphrodisiac. Like the pineapple, this is also considered a multiple fruit since the fruit is made up of a bunch of flowers fused together.

Fig trees also produce a latex sap which can be made into rubber.

1. Banyan

Picture of banyan tree
Image by romana klee via Flickr
  • Latin Name: Ficus benghalensis
  • Other Common Names: Banian, strangler fig, Bengal fig, Indian fig, East Indian fig
  • Native to: India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan
  • USDA Zones: 10 - 12
  • Height: Over 100' tall.  Some specimens spread out over a wide area that can be several acres

The traditional banyan tree is the Indian banyan, though this name may be used for several different species of fig trees. They may also be called strangler figs because of the way they grow.  They sprout in the holes and cracks of an established tree and over time grow around the trunk, effectively strangling the other tree. 

2. Chinese Banyan

Image by cliff1066 via Flickr
  • Latin Name: Ficus microcarpa
  • Other Common Names: Laurel fig, laurel rubber, Indian laurel, curtain fig, Malayan banyan, Cuban laurel, strangling fig
  • Native to: India and Malaysia
  • USDA Zones: 9 - 11
  • Height: 50 - 60' tall

The Chinese banyan is another species known as the strangling fig. This is commonly used as a street tree in tropical areas.

3. Cluster Fig

Photo of cluster fig
Image by ibsut via Flickr
  • Latin Name: Ficus congesta
  • Other Common Names: Congested fig, red leaf fig, Shatterthwaite fig
  • Native to: Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Philippines
  • USDA Zones: Likely 10 - 11
  • Height: 10 - 50' tall

The fruits on this Ficus species grow in clusters on the trunk as well as on the branches. 

4. Common Fig

Photo of common figs
Image by AxelRohdeElias via Flickr
  • Latin Name: Ficus carica
  • Other Common Names:
  • Native to: Western Asia
  • USDA Zones: 8 - 10.  If the right variety is chosen, you can grow these all the way down to Zone 5
  • Height: 10 - 30' tall

This is the fig you'll find in most stores unless you're shopping at local places in the tropics. It is rich in vitamins and minerals.

5. Creeping Fig

Photo of creeping fig fruit
Image by Scamperdale via Flickr
  • Latin Name: Ficus pumila
  • Other Common Names: Climbing fig
  • Native to: East Asia
  • USDA Zones: 8 - 11
  • Length: 15-20' + long

This woody vine can attach itself to the walls of buildings and can be hard to remove.  It is drought tolerant.

6. Fiddleleaf Fig

Photo of a potted fiddleleaf fig
Image by Link text via Creative Commons
  • Latin Name: Ficus lyrata
  • Other Common Names:
  • Native to: Western Africa
  • USDA Zones: 10 - 11
  • Height: Up to 100' tall in the wild

The large leaves are similar in shape to a fiddle, inspiring the common name.  This too acts as a strangler fig in its native habitat.

7. Moreton Bay Fig

Picture of Moreton Bay fig
Image by just chaos via Flickr
  • Latin Name: Ficus macrophylla
  • Native to: Australia
  • USDA Zones: 10 - 11. Can probably survive in 9 if it is mature.
  • Height: Can be over 200' tall

This species of fig features huge, curving roots that form above the surface. This is the type of tree seen in "Jurassic Park" when they find dinosaur eggs out in the park. This is yet another strangler fig.

8. Rubber Tree

Photo of the rubber fig
Image by Margaretshear via Flickr
  • Latin Name: Ficus elastica
  • Other Common Names: Rubber fig
  • Native to: India and Indonesia
  • USDA Zones: 10 - 11
  • Height: Can be over 100' tall in the wild

The latex sap from this tree was once used in the rubber-making process, though these days latex comes from the Para rubber tree (Hevea brasiliensis). These days you will find it serving as a houseplant around the world.

9. Weeping Fig

Photo of weeping fig
Image by zoinno via Flickr
  • Latin Name: Ficus benjamina
  • Other Common Names: Benjamin's fig
  • Native to: South Asia and Australia
  • USDA Zones: 10 - 11
  • Height: Can reach a height of about 100' in its native region

As a houseplant, weeping figs are notorious for being finicky.  They tend to drop their leaves when moved or stressed in some other way. Their trunks can be braided or plaited, which will cause the wood to grow together over time. When you hear someone talking about their ficus houseplant, this is the one they often mean.

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