Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Datasheet

Ficus carica
(common fig)

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Datasheet

Ficus carica (common fig)

Summary

  • Last modified
  • 27 September 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Host Plant
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Ficus carica
  • Preferred Common Name
  • common fig
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Dicotyledonae
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • Ficus carica, the common fig, is a rapidly growing tree that can spread by both seeds and cuttings, and if left unattended will form dense thickets that displace native trees and shrubs (

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Pictures

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PictureTitleCaptionCopyright
Ficus carica (common fig); twigs, left two female, and right two male figs.
TitleMale and female twigs
CaptionFicus carica (common fig); twigs, left two female, and right two male figs.
Copyright©U. Aksoy
Ficus carica (common fig); twigs, left two female, and right two male figs.
Male and female twigsFicus carica (common fig); twigs, left two female, and right two male figs.©U. Aksoy
Ficus carica (common fig); habit, showing branches and foliage.
TitleTree
CaptionFicus carica (common fig); habit, showing branches and foliage.
Copyright©Li Jiyuan
Ficus carica (common fig); habit, showing branches and foliage.
TreeFicus carica (common fig); habit, showing branches and foliage.©Li Jiyuan
Ficus carica (common fig); bark tubers on fig trunk.
TitleBark tubers
CaptionFicus carica (common fig); bark tubers on fig trunk.
Copyright©U. Aksoy
Ficus carica (common fig); bark tubers on fig trunk.
Bark tubersFicus carica (common fig); bark tubers on fig trunk.©U. Aksoy
Ficus carica (common fig); fruits.
TitleFruit
CaptionFicus carica (common fig); fruits.
Copyright©Li Jiyuan
Ficus carica (common fig); fruits.
FruitFicus carica (common fig); fruits.©Li Jiyuan
Ficus carica (common fig); leaf, five-lobed base calcarate.
TitleLeaf
CaptionFicus carica (common fig); leaf, five-lobed base calcarate.
Copyright©U. Aksoy
Ficus carica (common fig); leaf, five-lobed base calcarate.
LeafFicus carica (common fig); leaf, five-lobed base calcarate.©U. Aksoy
Ficus carica (common fig); fruit formation on the leaf axil
TitleFruit formation
CaptionFicus carica (common fig); fruit formation on the leaf axil
Copyright©U. Aksoy
Ficus carica (common fig); fruit formation on the leaf axil
Fruit formationFicus carica (common fig); fruit formation on the leaf axil©U. Aksoy
Ficus carica (common fig) ; variation in fruit developmental stages. Successive fruits at different stages of maturity (dried, fresh ripe and green).
TitleFruit development stages
CaptionFicus carica (common fig) ; variation in fruit developmental stages. Successive fruits at different stages of maturity (dried, fresh ripe and green).
Copyright©U. Aksoy
Ficus carica (common fig) ; variation in fruit developmental stages. Successive fruits at different stages of maturity (dried, fresh ripe and green).
Fruit development stagesFicus carica (common fig) ; variation in fruit developmental stages. Successive fruits at different stages of maturity (dried, fresh ripe and green).©U. Aksoy
Ficus carica (common fig); young Calimyra tree established as vase shape.
TitleYoung Calimyra tree
CaptionFicus carica (common fig); young Calimyra tree established as vase shape.
Copyright©U. Aksoy
Ficus carica (common fig); young Calimyra tree established as vase shape.
Young Calimyra treeFicus carica (common fig); young Calimyra tree established as vase shape.©U. Aksoy
Ficus carica (common fig); new orchards established at close spacing and rip irrigated.
TitleOrchard
CaptionFicus carica (common fig); new orchards established at close spacing and rip irrigated.
Copyright©U. Aksoy
Ficus carica (common fig); new orchards established at close spacing and rip irrigated.
OrchardFicus carica (common fig); new orchards established at close spacing and rip irrigated.©U. Aksoy
Ficus carica (common fig) ; training Roxo de Valinhos fig trees in Brazil; formation of a head.
TitleTraining
CaptionFicus carica (common fig) ; training Roxo de Valinhos fig trees in Brazil; formation of a head.
Copyright©U. Aksoy
Ficus carica (common fig) ; training Roxo de Valinhos fig trees in Brazil; formation of a head.
TrainingFicus carica (common fig) ; training Roxo de Valinhos fig trees in Brazil; formation of a head.©U. Aksoy
Ficus carica (common fig); Calimyrna trees tend to bend if not trained and pruned well.
TitleCalimyrna tree
CaptionFicus carica (common fig); Calimyrna trees tend to bend if not trained and pruned well.
Copyright©U. Aksoy
Ficus carica (common fig); Calimyrna trees tend to bend if not trained and pruned well.
Calimyrna treeFicus carica (common fig); Calimyrna trees tend to bend if not trained and pruned well.©U. Aksoy
Ficus carica (common fig); peparing for the fig harvest; baskets to pick partially dried figs from the ground, drying trays to complete drying. Note the well-levelled soil surface.
TitleHarvesting
CaptionFicus carica (common fig); peparing for the fig harvest; baskets to pick partially dried figs from the ground, drying trays to complete drying. Note the well-levelled soil surface.
Copyright©U. Aksoy
Ficus carica (common fig); peparing for the fig harvest; baskets to pick partially dried figs from the ground, drying trays to complete drying. Note the well-levelled soil surface.
HarvestingFicus carica (common fig); peparing for the fig harvest; baskets to pick partially dried figs from the ground, drying trays to complete drying. Note the well-levelled soil surface.©U. Aksoy

Identity

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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Ficus carica L.

Preferred Common Name

  • common fig

International Common Names

  • English: fig; fig tree
  • Spanish: higo; higuera; higuera comun
  • French: caprifiguier; carique; figuier; figuier commun
  • Arabic: teen
  • Chinese: wu hua guo; wuhuagus
  • Portuguese: figueira

Local Common Names

  • Brazil: figueira da Europa; figueira do reino
  • Cook Islands: monamona; suke
  • Dominican Republic: higo extranjero
  • Finland: viikuna
  • Germany: Echter Feigenbaum; Essfeigenbaum; Feige
  • Haiti: figuier blanc
  • India: anjir
  • Italy: fico
  • Kiribati: te biku
  • Korea, Republic of: muhwagwanamu
  • Micronesia, Federated states of: wojke piik; wõjke-piik
  • Myanmar: thinbaw-thapan
  • Netherlands: Vijgeboom
  • Palau: uosech
  • Portugal: bebereira
  • Samoa: mati
  • Sweden: Fikontraed; getfikon
  • Tonga: fiki

EPPO code

  • FIUCA (Ficus carica)

Trade name

  • common fig
  • fig

Summary of Invasiveness

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Ficus carica, the common fig, is a rapidly growing tree that can spread by both seeds and cuttings, and if left unattended will form dense thickets that displace native trees and shrubs (Weber, 2003). It is known to be invasive to Australia and the western United States (Weber, 2003) since the introduction of its pollinator wasp to the USA in 1900 (Hanelt et al., 2001); in California’s wildland, it is reportedly threatening the state’s increasingly rare riparian forests (California Invasive Plant Council, 2014). The species is listed as “casual alien, cultivation escape, environmental weed, garden thug, naturalised, noxious weed, weed” in the Global Compendium of Weeds (Randall, 2012), but is not listed in the Geographical Atlas of World Weeds (Holm, 1979) and is currently considered a low-risk species according to a risk assessment of the species prepared for Hawaii (PIER, 2014). Re-evaluation is recommended in the future.

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Plantae
  •         Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •             Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •                 Class: Dicotyledonae
  •                     Order: Urticales
  •                         Family: Moraceae
  •                             Genus: Ficus
  •                                 Species: Ficus carica

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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The edible fig is a member of the mulberry family, Moraceae, which consists of about 40 genera and 1200 species of trees, shrubs, lianas, or rarely herbs, nearly all with milky sap, and mainly of tropical or subtropical origin. The milky sap of various Moraceae species contain ‘heart poisons’ that are used as dart poisons in some cultures; other plant parts such as leaves and fruit juices have also been reported to cause allergic and toxic reactions in humans and livestock (Frohne and Pfander, 2005). Many genera of this family are well-known as food crops and include Artocarpus, the tropical food staple breadfruit and jackfruit genus, Ficus, the fig genus, and Morus, the mulberry genus.

Botanists disagree substantially with regard to the characterization of Ficus species. Species numbers have been reported as ranging from 600 to as many as 2000. The Plant List (2013) lists around 840 accepted species. These are largely tree and shrub species native to the tropics and subtropics that are often cultivated beyond their native range for their edible figs or as ornamentals. Members of this genus are difficult to distinguish by their flowers, but can be differentiated by habit, whether they are banyans or not, by leaf shape, and by their figs (Whistler, 2000).

Ficus carica, the common fig, is the species known around the world for its edible fig and has been cultivated for thousands of years, with traces of found in excavations of Neolithic sites traced to at least 5,000 BC (Morton, 1987). It has been present from about 1560 in the New World (Hanelt et al., 2001). It is distinguishable by its thick, sticky, sometimes milky sap, multiple trunks that can grow to 30 feet tall; smooth, light, gray, flaky bark; 3- or 5-lobed leaves rough to the touch; and its infructescence (‘false fruit’) fig, more or less pear-shaped or round, and 2-4 inches in circumference (California Invasive Plant Council, 2014). The latin name, carica, is named for the location Caria in Asia Minor which is supposedly the home of the fig (Starr et al., 2003). The edible fig and their pollinating counterpart, caprifigs, are the only members of the subgenus Eusyce grown commercially for their fruit. Several allied members of this subgenus closely resemble true Ficus species, and members intermediate in form between true Ficus and these allied species suggest hybridization among them.

F. carica is characterized by gynodioecism and by the production of only unisexual axillary flowers. F. carica comprises several varieties considered by some as distinct species; Flora Palaestina (2014) distinguishes that “while the fig of cultivated varieties contains only pistilate flowers and is parthenocarpic (thus vegetative propagation is needed), that of wild forms has both pistilate and staminate ones”.

Description

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F. carica trees can range from open to compact and from pendulous to upright to spreading, depending on the specific cultivar. Tree size and tree density are also rather dependent upon the cultivar, although cultural factors and soil quality can have a substantial impact upon eventual tree size. Exceptional specimens exist that have attained from 9 to 12 m in height and 10 m in spread, although commercially grown trees might only average from 5 to 8 m in height and from 6 to 7 m in width in the widest set plantings. Some cultivars produce trees that are round-topped and dense with many twiggy lateral spurs. Other cultivars have more apically dominant branches with fewer spurs, producing a more open or leggy appearance (Janick and Paull, 2008).

Roots

Fig is generally a shallow, fibrous-rooted species; however, depending upon the soil conditions, the roots may spread laterally and vertically.

Wood and bark

Fig wood is light in colour, soft and pithy, and has little value. Its specific gravity (oven dried weight/green volume) is 0.43. The bark is smooth, but a very few cultivars may have fissures. The trunks and larger branches may have bark tubers: these are swellings or tubers formed from dormant buds whose apex has died but which have vascular connections with the wood. In some cultivars (e.g. ‘Calimyrna’), similar excrescences are found at the nodes of the branches.

Latex cells

Latex cells are single cells that grow in the plant tissue similarly to the hyphae of parasitic fungi. They are found in most parts of the fig, producing the milky exudate latex that causes skin irritation because it contains the proteolytic enzyme ficin.

Branches and twigs

Fruits (except brebas that develop in the spring on the previous year’s shoot growth) and leaves form on the seasonal growth. The young twigs are commonly glabrous and brownish to green, but quickly change to grey as the branches age. The lenticels become corky, rough and darker with increasing age. The length of the internode increases towards the median part of the shoot.

Leaf

Leaf characteristics are stable enough to be used in varietal classification and identification. On a single branch, the basal and distal leaves differ from the middle leaves in the number of lobes and the depth of sinuses. The number of lobes varies from entire to seven. The shape of lobes, presence and shape of teeth, shape of base (petiole sinus) and leaf venation, dimensions and colour, presence and texture of hairs or spicules are additional criteria used in identification.

Fruit

The typical inflorescence of the fig fruit is a syconium, defined as a collective fleshy hollow peduncle. Its inner wall is lined with flowers and upon maturity with numerous fruitlets. It is classified as a false multiple fruit. The drupaceous fruitlets are botanically the real fruits. The exocarp and mesocarp stay fleshy until maturation. The hardening of endocarp occurs at the end of July and beginning of August. The edible fruit is, in contrast, a vegetative peduncle. A passageway leading towards an apical opening (ostiole = eye) links the internal cavity of the fruit to the external atmosphere. The ostiolar channel is surrounded by scales; the bract leaves (Condit, 1947; Ferguson et al., 1990).

Plant Type

Top of page Perennial
Seed propagated
Shrub
Tree
Vegetatively propagated
Woody

Distribution

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The exact native range for F. carica is obscure due to four millennia of cultivation. It is generally listed as most likely to be native to the Mediterranean Region and West Asia. Weeds of Australia (2017) says that it is thought to be native to northern Africa, southern Europe, Western Asia and northern Pakistan. Today, the species is widely cultivated in both tropical and subtropical regions of the world. The species is extensively cultivated and widely naturalized in southern and eastern Europe, and also grown in the New World. It has escaped from cultivation in some U.S. states (Encyclopedia of Life, 2017).

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Continent/Country/RegionDistributionLast ReportedOriginFirst ReportedInvasivePlantedReferenceNotes

Asia

AfghanistanPresentNativeFAO, 2009; USDA-ARS, 2014
AzerbaijanPresentNativeFAO, 2009; USDA-ARS, 2014
ChinaPresentNativeFAO, 2009; Flora of China Editorial Committee, 2014Native and cultivated throughout China
-AnhuiPresent Planted
-FujianPresent Planted
-GansuPresent Planted
-GuangdongPresent Planted
-GuangxiPresent Planted
-GuizhouPresent Planted
-HebeiPresent Planted
-HenanPresent Planted
-HubeiPresent Planted
-HunanPresent Planted
-JiangsuPresent Planted
-JiangxiPresent Planted
-ShaanxiPresent Planted
-ShandongPresent Planted
-ShanxiPresent Planted
-SichuanPresent Planted
-YunnanPresent Planted
-ZhejiangPresent Planted
IndiaPresentFAO, 2009Figs production (2008) 10,500 MT (F)
-Andhra PradeshPresent Planted
-Indian PunjabPresent Planted
-RajasthanPresent Planted
IranPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2014
IraqPresentNativeFAO, 2009; USDA-ARS, 2014
IsraelPresentNativeFAO, 2009; Flora Palaestina, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2014
JapanPresentFAO, 2009Figs production (2008) 16,500 MT (F)
-HonshuPresent
-KyushuPresent Planted
JordanPresentNativeFAO, 2009; USDA-ARS, 2014
Korea, DPRPresent Planted
Korea, Republic ofPresent Planted
KuwaitPresentFAO, 2009Figs production (2008) 0 MT (M)
LebanonPresentNativeFAO, 2009; USDA-ARS, 2014
MyanmarPresent only in captivity/cultivationKress et al., 2003
NepalPresent Planted
PakistanPresentNativeFAO, 2009; USDA-ARS, 2014
PhilippinesPresent only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedPIER, 2014‘occasionally cultivated’
QatarPresentFAO, 2009Figs production (2008) 200 MT (F)
Saudi ArabiaPresentPlanted, Natural
SyriaPresentNativeFAO, 2009; USDA-ARS, 2014
TajikistanPresentNativeFAO, 2009; USDA-ARS, 2014
TurkeyPresentNativeFAO, 2009; USDA-ARS, 2014
TurkmenistanPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2014
United Arab EmiratesPresentFAO, 2009Figs production (2008) 440 MT (F)
UzbekistanPresentFAO, 2009Figs production (2008) 1,700 MT (*)
YemenPresentFAO, 2009Figs production (2008) 4,600 MT (F)

Africa

AlgeriaPresentNativeFAO, 2009; USDA-ARS, 2014
CameroonPresentFAO, 2009Figs production (2008) 60 MT (F)
Cape VerdePresentIntroducedWeber, 2003; USDA-ARS, 2014
EgyptPresentNativeFAO, 2009; Randall, 2012; USDA-ARS, 2014Sinai
MadagascarPresentWeber, 2003
MoroccoPresentNativeFAO, 2009; USDA-ARS, 2014
NigeriaPresent
SeychellesPresentWeber, 2003
South AfricaPresentFAO, 2009Figs production (2008) 2,755 MT
Spain
-Canary IslandsPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2014Naturalized
TunisiaPresentNativeFAO, 2009; USDA-ARS, 2014

North America

CanadaPresentWeber, 2003
-QuebecPresent Planted
MexicoPresentWeber, 2003; FAO, 2009
USAPresentIntroducedFAO, 2009; USDA-NRCS, 2017
-AlabamaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2017
-ArizonaPresent Planted
-CaliforniaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2017
-FloridaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2017
-GeorgiaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2017
-KentuckyPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2017
-LouisianaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2017
-MarylandPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2017
-MassachusettsPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2017
-MichiganPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2017
-MississippiPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2017
-New JerseyPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2017
-New YorkPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2017
-North CarolinaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2017
-PennsylvaniaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2017
-South CarolinaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2017
-TennesseePresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2017
-TexasPresent, few occurrencesIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2017

Central America and Caribbean

BarbadosPresent only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedBroome et al., 2007; Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012
Cayman IslandsPresent only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedAcevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012
CubaPresent only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedAcevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012
Dominican RepublicPresent only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedAcevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012
El SalvadorPresentFlora Mesoamericana, 2014
GuadeloupePresent only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedBroome et al., 2007; Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012
HaitiPresent only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedAcevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012
HondurasPresentFlora Mesoamericana, 2014
JamaicaPresent only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedAcevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012
MartiniquePresent only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedBroome et al., 2007; Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012
MontserratPresent only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedBroome et al., 2007; Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012
NicaraguaPresentIntroducedFlora de Nicaragua, 2014
Puerto RicoPresent only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedAcevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012

South America

ArgentinaPresentWeber, 2003; FAO, 2009
BoliviaPresent only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedFAO, 2009; Bolivia Checklist, 2014Santa Cruz, Cochabamba, La Paz, Tarija
BrazilPresentFAO, 2009Figs production (2008) 26,600 MT (F)
-Mato GrossoPresent Planted
-Mato Grosso do SulPresent Planted
-Minas GeraisPresent Planted
-ParanaPresent Planted
-PernambucoPresent Planted
-Sao PauloPresent Planted
ChilePresentWeber, 2003; PIER, 2014
ColombiaPresent only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedFAO, 2009; Vascular Plants of Antioquia, 2014Barbosa, Bello, Copacabana, Itaguí, Medellín, Sonsón
EcuadorPresentIntroducedFAO, 2009; Vascular Plants of Ecuador, 2014Azuay, Galapagos, Loja, Pichincha
-Galapagos IslandsPresentIntroducedPIER, 2014
PeruPresentIntroducedFAO, 2009; Peru Checklist, 2014Cuzco

Europe

AlbaniaPresent only in captivity/cultivationFAO, 2009; Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, 2014
AndorraPresent Planted
AustriaPresentIntroduced1700?DAISIE, 2014‘alien/not established’
BelgiumPresentIntroduced1500DAISIE, 2014alien/not established’
BulgariaPresentIntroducedDAISIE, 2014
CroatiaPresentFAO, 2009Figs production (2008) 2,235 MT (F)
CyprusPresentNativeFAO, 2009; USDA-ARS, 2014
Czech RepublicPresentIntroducedDAISIE, 2014alien/not established’
DenmarkPresentIntroducedDAISIE, 2014
FinlandPresentIntroducedRandall, 2012casual alien’
FrancePresentNativeFAO, 2009; DAISIE, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2014
-CorsicaPresentIntroducedDAISIE, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2014‘Cryptogenic/Established’
GermanyPresent Planted
GibraltarPresentIntroducedRandall, 2012Naturalized
GreecePresentNativeFAO, 2009; USDA-ARS, 2014
-CretePresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2014
IrelandPresentIntroducedDAISIE, 2014alien/not established’
ItalyPresentNativeFAO, 2009; USDA-ARS, 2014
-SardiniaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2014
-SicilyPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2014
MaltaPresentFAO, 2009Figs production (2008) 150 MT (F)
NetherlandsPresent Planted
PortugalPresentIntroducedFAO, 2009; DAISIE, 2014alien/ established’
-AzoresPresentIntroduced1838DAISIE, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2014‘alien/established’
-MadeiraPresentIntroducedDAISIE, 2014alien/ established’
RomaniaPresentIntroducedDAISIE, 2014alien/not established’
Russian Federation
-Central RussiaPresent Planted
-Russia (Europe)Present Planted
SloveniaPresentFAO, 2009Figs production (2008) 36 MT
SpainPresentIntroducedFAO, 2009; DAISIE, 2014alien/ established’
-Balearic IslandsPresentIntroducedDAISIE, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2014‘alien/established’
SwedenPresentIntroducedDAISIE, 2014alien/not established’
SwitzerlandPresentIntroducedDAISIE, 2014alien/not established’
UKPresentIntroduced1500DAISIE, 2014‘alien/ established’ in England; ‘alien/unknown’ in Wales and Scotland
-Channel IslandsPresentIntroducedDAISIE, 2014
UkrainePresentIntroducedDAISIE, 2014

Oceania

AustraliaPresentIntroducedFAO, 2009; Weeds of Australia, 2017Widely naturalized in temperate regions of the south
-Australian Northern TerritoryPresentIntroducedWeeds of Australia, 2017Occasionally naturalized
-New South WalesPresentIntroducedWeeds of Australia, 2017Widely naturalized
-QueenslandPresentIntroducedWeeds of Australia, 2017Sparingly naturalized
-South AustraliaPresentIntroducedWeeds of Australia, 2017Widely naturalized
-VictoriaPresentIntroducedWeeds of Australia, 2017Widely naturalized
-Western AustraliaPresentIntroducedWeeds of Australia, 2017Widely naturalized
Cook IslandsPresentIntroducedPIER, 2014
FijiPresent only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedPIER, 2014
French PolynesiaPresent only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedPIER, 2014
GuamPresentIntroducedPIER, 2014
KiribatiPresentIntroducedPIER, 2014
Marshall IslandsPresentIntroducedPIER, 2014
Micronesia, Federated states ofPresentWagner et al., 2014Caroline Islands - Belau (), Gilbert Islands - Northern Gilbert Islands (Abemama, Tarawa), Southern Gilbert Islands (Tabiteuea), Mariana Islands - (Guam), Marshall Islands - Ralik Chain (Ebon, Jaluit), Wake - (Wake)
New CaledoniaPresent only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedPIER, 2014
New ZealandPresentIntroducedWeeds of Australia, 2017Naturalized
NiuePresent only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedPIER, 2014
Norfolk IslandPresentIntroducedWeeds of Australia, 2017Possibly naturalized
PalauPresentIntroducedPIER, 2014
Pitcairn IslandPresentIntroducedPIER, 2014
TuvaluPresentIntroducedPIER, 2014
Wake IslandPresent only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedPIER, 2014

History of Introduction and Spread

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F. carica originated in the Old World Tropics -- Asia Minor and the Mediterranean region. In the Mediterranean, the fig has been cultivated since as early as 5,000 BC and appears in several parts of the Old and New Testaments of the Bible (Hanelt et al., 2001). The first cultivation is thought to have started in the fertile valleys of the Arabian Peninsula. Gradually it became extensively grown in the Middle East and on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. During this transition, better cultivars were selected because of its easy rooting. Towards the end of the fifth century AD, fig culture was extended to the Atlantic coast and northern Africa. Figs were introduced into England sometime between 1525 and 1548 (Morton, 1987). It was reported from Chinese gardens by 1550 (Morton, 1987).

The fig tree was first introduced to the Americas in 1560 by Spanish explorers in Mexico (Morton, 1987). On the West Coast, in the area that eventually became the State of California, Spanish Franciscan missionaries introduced the cultivar, Mission, to the area that, in 1769, became the San Diego Mission (Anderson and Crocker, 2009). Date of introduction to the West Indies is uncertain, but it had apparently been introduced to and extensively cultivated in Bermuda for a long period prior to 1918 (Britton, 1918). It does not appear to have become naturalized or established during that period, however, as the species was not listed in an early flora of the Bahamas, or in floras of Puerto Rico from the 1880s. The species has now become widespread across the eastern Caribbean (Broome et al., 2007) and a persistent species in Puerto Rico (Liogier and Martorell, 2000).

Risk of Introduction

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In a recent risk assessment prepared for Hawaii, the risk of introduction of F. carica was concluded to be low, and it received a low risk score of 2 (score of 6 or higher = likely to be a major pest, or reject for import) (PIER, 2014). However, the species possesses several invasive characteristics that warrant monitoring and re-evaluation in the future, and is listed as “casual alien, cultivation escape, environmental weed, garden thug, naturalised, noxious weed, weed” in the Global Compendium of Weeds (Randall, 2012). These traits include broad climate suitability, repeated intentional introduction beyond its native range, its known status as an environmental and congeneric weed, its role as a host for a number of recognized pests and pathogens, its tolerance for a wide range of soil conditions, its ability to strangle host plants as an epiphyte and to form dense thickets as a tree which outcompetes native flora by shading and strangling, and its ability to regenerate vegetatively (Weber, 2003; PIER, 2014).

Habitat

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The species can tolerate a range of habitats, including infertile rocky land, woodland, scrubland, and even places with hot, dry soil (Lansky and Paavilainen, 2010). In Antioquia, Colombia, the species occurs in humid to very humid premontane and lower montane forests (Vascular Plants of Antioquia, 2014). The species is cultivated in the Andean region of Bolivia (Bolivia Checklist, 2014), and in disturbed areas of the Andean region of Peru (Peru Checklist, 2014). In parts of Western Australia it is found in wetland areas, along waterways, and in riparian zones (Weeds of Australia, 2017).

Habitat List

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CategoryHabitatPresenceStatus
Terrestrial-managed
Cultivated / agricultural land Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Disturbed areas Present, no further details Natural
Managed forests, plantations and orchards Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Rail / roadsides Present, no further details Natural
Rail / roadsides Present, no further details Productive/non-natural

Biology and Ecology

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Genetics

Sporophytic count for F. carica is 26 (IPCN Chromosome Reports, 2014).

Life History and Growth Stages

The lifespan of the fig tree is generally 50-75 years, depending upon soil and cultural conditions. In some cultivars trunks can be renewed with suckers. Fig trees can start producing fruits even in the nursery; however, the producing age commences the seventh season after planting. This period is shorter in dense orchards and in breba production.

In fig trees, growth starts with bud-burst (leafing) as the scales unfold in early spring. This period is at the end of March in the Northern Hemisphere. In many cultivars there is a strong apical dominancy resulting in seasonal growth from the terminal or adjacent one or two buds. Apical dominancy is weaker in some breba-producing cultivars. The apical meristem develops into many formations as scales, leaves, fruit primordia and axillary vegetative buds. The shoot growth period varies according to the prevailing climatic conditions, applied practices, vigour and cultivar. Under Mediterranean conditions it is around 75-90 days and displays a sigmoidal curve. The average shoot lengths are 7-11 cm and the number of nodes is 6-9 per shoot. At each leaf axil there are three buds, two fruiting and one vegetative. They form during late summer and autumn, and remain dormant during the winter. In spring, the leaves form from the vegetative buds at each node. Fruits are formed on the median portion of the shoot. The fruit buds at proximal and distal nodes remain dormant. Maximum fruiting occurs on those nodes between the third and the sixth. In some cultivars (‘Kadota’, ‘Calimyrna’) both of the fruit buds develop into fruits (Aksoy, 1981; Vidaud, 1997).

In female and male figs, there are three successive crops. In female figs, the first crop (breba) is borne from buds at the distal end of the previous season's growth; these remain dormant during winter, become active in spring and the fruits ripen in May-July according to the local conditions (in the Northern Hemisphere). The second crop (main or summer crop) is produced on current season's growth and matures towards the latter part of July-November. The third crop refers to fruits forming at the distal end of the shoot and ripening later in the season. These buds differentiate during the same season.

Female figs are classified under three groups according to the pollination requirement of the fruits:

- Common type. None of the crops requires pollination for fruit set; all are of the persistent type. Breba fruits may or may not form. The second crop is abundant and sometimes a third crop sets and matures.

- San Pedro type. The breba crop is persistent (parthenocarpic). The second crop requires caprification (artificial pollination by wasps) for fruit set. If not fertilized, fruits grow up to 1.5 cm in diameter and then drop.

- Smyrna type. The second crop requiring pollination for fruit set (caducous type) is the main crop. Few brebas may form (Storey, 1975).

In male figs, the three successive crops are mamme (winter crop), profichi (spring crop) and mammoni (summer crop).

The growth and development of fruits set at different nodes are completed in three distinct periods: two rapid growth periods, I and III, separated by a slow growth period (II). The first rapid phase is described with high respiration rate, active cell division and differentiation, dense protoplasmic material and high rates of ribosome, nucleic acid and protein synthesis. During the second phase, cell division in the receptacle is terminated, and rates of respiration, growth and biosynthetic activity are slowed down. The third stage is characterized by rapid cell enlargement and changes related to maturation, such as in colour, taste and texture. A very rapid maturation accompanied by rapid sugar accumulation is characteristic of fig fruits. During the last 5-10 days before ripening, fruits increase in size and the colour changes from green to the colour characteristic of the cultivar.

Pollination

The pollen-bearing profichi is the unique crop used in caprifying the main crop of female figs. The other male crops act as the bridge for completing the life cycle of the fig wasp, Blastophaga psenes, which is vital for crop pollination, but which generally make the caprifigs inedible.

The process by which figs are pollinated is called caprification. This event is the result of an association between the fig, the caprifig and the fig wasp Blastophaga psenes. The fig wasp inhabits and completes its life cycle within the caprifig. Caprifig cultivars grown for use in caprification usually produce three crops of caprifigs annually. Beginning with the winter crop caprifigs, known as the mamme crop, the wasp overwinters in these caprifigs in the form of a larva within the ovary of a pistillate flower. The larvae begin to pupate in late winter through to early spring and emerge as adults beginning in mid-March through to early April. The male is first to emerge inside the caprifig synconium and begins to open the psenocarps and mate with the females still inside. The males rarely leave the caprifig synconium of origin and die soon after mating is complete. The bred females emerge after mating and exit the mamme caprifig through the ostiole. The females move along branches or by short flights from branch to branch within the caprifig tree. The female wasps seek out the developing spring or profichi crop now developing on the caprifig tree and enter the profichi through the ostiole and commence to deposit eggs in the developing short-styled pistillate flowers within the caprifig syconium. When egg laying is complete the female wasp dies. The profichi syconia, now inhabited by the next generation of developing wasps, continue to grow until about early June, when mature bred female wasps again emerge. At the same time as the emergence of the female wasps is occurring, the staminate flowers within the profichi syconium have matured and are shedding pollen. The emerging females, covered with pollen, seek out the summer or mammoni caprifig crop developing on the current season’s shoots. The cycle begins again as the female wasps enter the young mammoni caprifigs to lay eggs. In the process of searching for mammoni caprifigs, the female wasp will enter any fig syconium nearby to try and find an appropriate short-styled staminate fig flower in which to deposit her eggs. Within the receptacle of the fig syconia there are no short-styled florets, only the long-styled form. Since the ovipositor of the wasp cannot penetrate the embryo sac at the bottom of the long-styled flowers of the fig, no eggs will develop. In the process of searching for an ovipositing site, however, the pollen-bearing wasp brings about the pollination of the fig’s long-styled florets. This process of introduction of the pollen-bearing wasp into the fig syconium is called caprification and is the means by which the main crop of Smyrna (non-persistent or caducous)-type figs is set. The caprified fig will develop viable seed and will remain on the fig tree until maturity.

The movement of the fig wasp from the profichi caprifig crop to the mammoni caprifig crop is again followed by egg laying and the eventual emergence in early August of another wasp generation. The wasps emerging from the mature mammoni caprifigs will then enter the developing mamme caprifig crop. The inhabited mamme crop overwinters on the tree with developing fig wasp larvae inside, and begins the yearly cycle again the following spring.

Ecology

Fig was originally adapted to semi-arid subtropical regions; however, it can be found both in the natural flora in mild temperate climates and in the tropics as an evergreen. It is grown in regular plantations between latitudes 20 and 40° both in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. In most producing countries, commercial orchards are located at lower altitudes, but in the tropics they can be found at altitudes of 3000 m. Temperatures below -10°C are the main limiting factors in site selection. New growth in early spring or secondary growth in late autumn (mainly in young trees) may be damaged at -1°C. Some cold-hardy cultivars are known to exist in colder climates. Low temperatures also create a risk to the fig wasps over-wintering in mamme fruits. It requires little or no chilling to break dormancy. During fruit development and ripening, higher temperatures are required for adequate sugar accumulation and proper maturation. Accompanying rain or high humidity exert a negative impact on fruit quality. For commercial sun-drying, a long, dry and hot summer is a prerequisite.

F. caricacan tolerate a range of habitats, including infertile rocky land, woodland, scrubland, and even hot dry soil (Lansky and Paavilainen, 2010). It can be grown on all types of soils, preferably on sandy-clay loam within a pH range of 6.0-8.0. It is known to tolerate higher lime contents, but highly acid soils are unsuitable. A soil depth of 1-1.5 m will provide the required growth conditions. Some cultivars are more selective (Aksoy and Anac, 1993).The tree is fairly tolerant of moderate salinity (Morton, 1987).

F. carica is generally found at mid elevations. In Colombia it is reported to grow between 1000 and 2500 m (Vascular Plants of Antioquia, 2014), and in Bolivia at 2000-2500 m (Bolivia Checklist, 2014). In Ecuador, the species has been reported in Galapagos, Coastal, and Andean regions between elevations of 0 and 2500 m (Vascular Plants of Ecuador, 2014). In Peru, the species reportedly occurs in disturbed areas of the Andean region at elevations of 1500-2000 m (Peru Checklist, 2014).

Climate

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ClimateStatusDescriptionRemark
Af - Tropical rainforest climate Tolerated > 60mm precipitation per month
As - Tropical savanna climate with dry summer Preferred < 60mm precipitation driest month (in summer) and < (100 - [total annual precipitation{mm}/25])
Aw - Tropical wet and dry savanna climate Preferred < 60mm precipitation driest month (in winter) and < (100 - [total annual precipitation{mm}/25])
BS - Steppe climate Preferred > 430mm and < 860mm annual precipitation
BW - Desert climate Tolerated < 430mm annual precipitation
Cs - Warm temperate climate with dry summer Preferred Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry summers
Cw - Warm temperate climate with dry winter Tolerated Warm temperate climate with dry winter (Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry winters)
Cf - Warm temperate climate, wet all year Tolerated Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, wet all year

Latitude/Altitude Ranges

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Latitude North (°N)Latitude South (°S)Altitude Lower (m)Altitude Upper (m)
30 12 20 2950

Air Temperature

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Parameter Lower limit Upper limit
Absolute minimum temperature (ºC) -10
Mean annual temperature (ºC) 13 25
Mean maximum temperature of hottest month (ºC) 18 31
Mean minimum temperature of coldest month (ºC) 3 5

Rainfall

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ParameterLower limitUpper limitDescription
Dry season duration15number of consecutive months with <40 mm rainfall
Mean annual rainfall7001250mm; lower/upper limits

Rainfall Regime

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Uniform

Soil Tolerances

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Soil drainage

  • free

Soil reaction

  • acid
  • alkaline
  • neutral

Soil texture

  • heavy
  • medium

Notes on Natural Enemies

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Considering its widespread and long-lasting cultivation around the world, F. carica is known to be prey to a large number of natural enemies including mealybugs, mites, moths, nematodes, flies, scales, and rot. Pest and disease information is all from cultivated plants. Fig trees are prone to attack by nematodes (especially Meloidogyne spp.). Leaf rust caused by Cerotelium fici is a widespread problem bringing about premature leaf fall and reducing yields (Morton, 1987). Carpophilus hemipterus is one of the important pests of fig which plays a significant role by infesting the fruit and carrying parasitic fungi such as Aspergillus spp., Alternaria spp., Fusarium spp., Rhizopus spp. and Penicilium spp. Hypoborus ficus is one of the common pests of fig that causes drying out and death of the tree. Homotoma ficus affects only leaves by feeding and hosts only on fig trees. The leaves become yellow in colour and fall after time.

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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The species was intentionally introduced for fauna improvement in Austria (DAISIE, 2014), and around the world for its edible figs. In places where F. carica’s specialist pollinator wasp has also been introduced, the species can be dispersed by seeds which are ingested by fruit-eating birds and animals (Starr et al., 2003; Weber, 2003). The species is also capable of reproducing by cuttings, and has been reported to escape from cultivation (Randall, 2012).

Pathway Causes

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CauseNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Crop production Yes Yes Hanelt et al., 2001
Digestion and excretionWhere pollinator wasp is persent, seeds can be dispersed by birds and animals which eat the figs Yes Morton, 1987
Escape from confinement or garden escapeSpecies cultivated for thousands of years and can escape from cultivation Yes Yes Hanelt et al., 2001
Medicinal use Yes

Pathway Vectors

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VectorNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Germplasm Yes Yes

Impact Summary

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CategoryImpact
Positive
Negative
Positive

Economic Impact

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The presence of the species has a positive impact on human health and livelihoods, as it has been cultivated for human consumption, wood material, and health-related uses for thousands of years (Hanelt et al, 2001; Weber, 2003; USDA-ARS, 2014).

Environmental Impact

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F. carica may pose a negative environmental risk in non-native places where it has naturalized and become established; however this risk is currently considered low (PIER, 2014).

Risk and Impact Factors

Top of page Invasiveness
  • Proved invasive outside its native range
  • Has a broad native range
  • Abundant in its native range
  • Highly adaptable to different environments
  • Tolerates, or benefits from, cultivation, browsing pressure, mutilation, fire etc
  • Pioneering in disturbed areas
  • Tolerant of shade
  • Fast growing
  • Has high reproductive potential
  • Has propagules that can remain viable for more than one year
  • Reproduces asexually
Impact mechanisms
  • Causes allergic responses
  • Competition - shading
  • Competition - strangling
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately

Uses

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The fig fruit is consumed fresh or dried. Both fresh female and male figs are processed as jam or candied. Fig paste is prepared by grinding dried fruits in two different ways: crushing the seeds or keeping the seeds intact. Fig paste is used in industry as a raw ingredient, such as in the case of fig bars. Dried figs can be used as a coffee substitute or be blended with coffee after roasting and pulverizing. A thick fig syrup is used as a roasting agent in bakery products. Low quality cull figs are used for distillation into alcohol or as high-energy animal feed. Immediately after leaf fall, fig leaves can also be used to feed animals. Leaves have medicinal properties due to their bergaptene and psoralene content. Fig fruits are known to have laxative properties. Latex, possessing the proteolytic enzyme ficin, is used as meat tenderizer. Fig latex has also been tested as an alternative to rubber.

The wood of F. carica is used as fuelwood and for light construction, industrial, and domestic woodware, as well as for making tool handles.

Uses List

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Animal feed, fodder, forage

  • Fodder/animal feed

Fuels

  • Fuelwood

Human food and beverage

  • Beverage base
  • Food additive
  • Fruits
  • Sweetener

Materials

  • Carved material
  • Rubber/latex
  • Wood/timber

Medicinal, pharmaceutical

  • Source of medicine/pharmaceutical
  • Traditional/folklore

Ornamental

  • Propagation material

Wood Products

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Sawn or hewn building timbers

  • For light construction

Woodware

  • Industrial and domestic woodware
  • Tool handles

Prevention and Control

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Prevention

The species requires a specialist pollinator wasp in order to set viable seed. In places where F. carica is already a known weed or invasive species, it is a high priority to prevent the wasp from entering non-native areas in order to prevent further spread.

Chemical Control

Chemical control has been used for Ficus species, as they are sensitive to triclopyr herbicides as a basal or stump treatment over several years (Starr et al., 2003; Weber, 2003).

Physical Control

F. carica can be physically controlled by pulling by hand or pruning young plants and larger saplings to prevent the plant from maturing into a woody shrub or tree-like form; however a combination of physical and chemical control is often necessary, as the tree will persistently resprout after cutting or other damage (Weber, 2003).

 

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Contributors

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02/12/2015 Updated by:

Marianne Jennifer Datiles, Department of Botany-Smithsonian NMNH, Washington DC, USA

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