Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Datasheet

Ficus microcarpa
(Indian laurel tree)

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Datasheet

Ficus microcarpa (Indian laurel tree)

Summary

  • Last modified
  • 27 September 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Host Plant
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Ficus microcarpa
  • Preferred Common Name
  • Indian laurel tree
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Dicotyledonae
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • F. microcarpa is a high-risk, aggressively invasive, strangling fig or banyan tree native to Asia but cultivated pantropically (Center for Australian National Biodiversity Res...

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Pictures

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PictureTitleCaptionCopyright
Ficus microcarpa (Indian laurel tree); habit. Bonin Islands Hahajima Island, Japan. April 2011.
TitleHabit
CaptionFicus microcarpa (Indian laurel tree); habit. Bonin Islands Hahajima Island, Japan. April 2011.
CopyrightPublic Domain - Released by タクナワン/via wikipedia - CC0 1.0
Ficus microcarpa (Indian laurel tree); habit. Bonin Islands Hahajima Island, Japan. April 2011.
HabitFicus microcarpa (Indian laurel tree); habit. Bonin Islands Hahajima Island, Japan. April 2011.Public Domain - Released by タクナワン/via wikipedia - CC0 1.0
Ficus microcarpa (Indian laurel tree); habit, showing aerial roots. Honolua Lipoa Point, Maui, Hawaii, USA. April 2018.
TitleHabit
CaptionFicus microcarpa (Indian laurel tree); habit, showing aerial roots. Honolua Lipoa Point, Maui, Hawaii, USA. April 2018.
Copyright©Forest & Kim Starr-2018 - CC BY 4.0
Ficus microcarpa (Indian laurel tree); habit, showing aerial roots. Honolua Lipoa Point, Maui, Hawaii, USA. April 2018.
HabitFicus microcarpa (Indian laurel tree); habit, showing aerial roots. Honolua Lipoa Point, Maui, Hawaii, USA. April 2018.©Forest & Kim Starr-2018 - CC BY 4.0
Ficus microcarpa (Indian laurel tree); habit, with Laysan albatrosses. Sand Island, Midway Atoll, Hawaii, USA. June 2008.
TitleHabit
CaptionFicus microcarpa (Indian laurel tree); habit, with Laysan albatrosses. Sand Island, Midway Atoll, Hawaii, USA. June 2008.
Copyright©Forest & Kim Starr-2008 - CC BY 4.0
Ficus microcarpa (Indian laurel tree); habit, with Laysan albatrosses. Sand Island, Midway Atoll, Hawaii, USA. June 2008.
HabitFicus microcarpa (Indian laurel tree); habit, with Laysan albatrosses. Sand Island, Midway Atoll, Hawaii, USA. June 2008.©Forest & Kim Starr-2008 - CC BY 4.0
Ficus microcarpa (Indian laurel tree); habit, with Laysan albatrosses. Commodore Avenue, Sand Island, Midway Atoll, Hawaii, USA. June 2008.
TitleHabit
CaptionFicus microcarpa (Indian laurel tree); habit, with Laysan albatrosses. Commodore Avenue, Sand Island, Midway Atoll, Hawaii, USA. June 2008.
Copyright©Forest & Kim Starr-2008 - CC BY 4.0
Ficus microcarpa (Indian laurel tree); habit, with Laysan albatrosses. Commodore Avenue, Sand Island, Midway Atoll, Hawaii, USA. June 2008.
HabitFicus microcarpa (Indian laurel tree); habit, with Laysan albatrosses. Commodore Avenue, Sand Island, Midway Atoll, Hawaii, USA. June 2008.©Forest & Kim Starr-2008 - CC BY 4.0
Ficus microcarpa (Indian laurel tree); foliage. Holiday Inn Express, Boynton Beach, Florida, USA. September 2009.
TitleFoliage
CaptionFicus microcarpa (Indian laurel tree); foliage. Holiday Inn Express, Boynton Beach, Florida, USA. September 2009.
Copyright©Forest & Kim Starr-2009 - CC BY 4.0
Ficus microcarpa (Indian laurel tree); foliage. Holiday Inn Express, Boynton Beach, Florida, USA. September 2009.
FoliageFicus microcarpa (Indian laurel tree); foliage. Holiday Inn Express, Boynton Beach, Florida, USA. September 2009.©Forest & Kim Starr-2009 - CC BY 4.0
Ficus microcarpa (Indian laurel tree); habit. Small tree on an ironwood stump. Sand Island, Midway Atoll, Hawaii, USA. March 2015.
TitleHabit
CaptionFicus microcarpa (Indian laurel tree); habit. Small tree on an ironwood stump. Sand Island, Midway Atoll, Hawaii, USA. March 2015.
Copyright©Forest & Kim Starr-2015 - CC BY 4.0
Ficus microcarpa (Indian laurel tree); habit. Small tree on an ironwood stump. Sand Island, Midway Atoll, Hawaii, USA. March 2015.
HabitFicus microcarpa (Indian laurel tree); habit. Small tree on an ironwood stump. Sand Island, Midway Atoll, Hawaii, USA. March 2015.©Forest & Kim Starr-2015 - CC BY 4.0
Ficus microcarpa (Indian laurel tree); habit, on a fence post. Haiku, Maui, Hawaii, USA. April 2001.
TitleHabit
CaptionFicus microcarpa (Indian laurel tree); habit, on a fence post. Haiku, Maui, Hawaii, USA. April 2001.
Copyright©Forest & Kim Starr-2001 - CC BY 4.0
Ficus microcarpa (Indian laurel tree); habit, on a fence post. Haiku, Maui, Hawaii, USA. April 2001.
HabitFicus microcarpa (Indian laurel tree); habit, on a fence post. Haiku, Maui, Hawaii, USA. April 2001.©Forest & Kim Starr-2001 - CC BY 4.0
Ficus microcarpa (Indian laurel tree); habit, showing base of tree, with Laysan albatross chick. Sand Island, Midway Atoll, Hawaii, USA. June 2008.
TitleHabit
CaptionFicus microcarpa (Indian laurel tree); habit, showing base of tree, with Laysan albatross chick. Sand Island, Midway Atoll, Hawaii, USA. June 2008.
Copyright©Forest & Kim Starr-2008 - CC BY 4.0
Ficus microcarpa (Indian laurel tree); habit, showing base of tree, with Laysan albatross chick. Sand Island, Midway Atoll, Hawaii, USA. June 2008.
HabitFicus microcarpa (Indian laurel tree); habit, showing base of tree, with Laysan albatross chick. Sand Island, Midway Atoll, Hawaii, USA. June 2008.©Forest & Kim Starr-2008 - CC BY 4.0
Ficus microcarpa (Indian laurel tree); habit, on a building. Sand Island, Midway Atoll, Hawaii, USA. March 2015.
TitleHabit
CaptionFicus microcarpa (Indian laurel tree); habit, on a building. Sand Island, Midway Atoll, Hawaii, USA. March 2015.
Copyright©Forest & Kim Starr-2015 - CC BY 4.0
Ficus microcarpa (Indian laurel tree); habit, on a building. Sand Island, Midway Atoll, Hawaii, USA. March 2015.
HabitFicus microcarpa (Indian laurel tree); habit, on a building. Sand Island, Midway Atoll, Hawaii, USA. March 2015.©Forest & Kim Starr-2015 - CC BY 4.0
Ficus microcarpa (Indian laurel tree); treated stump, but regrowing. West Beach, Sand Island, Midway Atoll, Hawaii, USA. April 2015.
TitleControl measures
CaptionFicus microcarpa (Indian laurel tree); treated stump, but regrowing. West Beach, Sand Island, Midway Atoll, Hawaii, USA. April 2015.
Copyright©Forest & Kim Starr-2015 - CC BY 4.0
Ficus microcarpa (Indian laurel tree); treated stump, but regrowing. West Beach, Sand Island, Midway Atoll, Hawaii, USA. April 2015.
Control measuresFicus microcarpa (Indian laurel tree); treated stump, but regrowing. West Beach, Sand Island, Midway Atoll, Hawaii, USA. April 2015.©Forest & Kim Starr-2015 - CC BY 4.0

Identity

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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Ficus microcarpa L. f.

Preferred Common Name

  • Indian laurel tree

Other Scientific Names

  • Ficus microcarpa var. hillii (F.M.Bailey) Corner
  • Ficus microcarpa var. saffordii (Merr.) Corner
  • Ficus retusa auct. non L.

International Common Names

  • English: Chinese banyan; Chinese banyan fig; curtain fig; fig; Hill's weeping fig; Indian laurel fig; Indian-laurel; laurel fig; laurel fig tree; Malay banyan; Malayan banyan; small-fruit fig
  • Spanish: laurel de la India
  • French: arbre de l'Intendance; laurier d'Inde
  • Chinese: rong shu

Local Common Names

  • Dominican Republic: arbol de Washington; laurel; laurel de India; laurel de la India
  • Germany: Lorbeer Feigenbaum
  • Guam: nunu
  • Indonesia/Java: bibis; bulu; kowang; wunut
  • Japan: gajumaru
  • Lesser Antilles: evergreen
  • Malaysia: ara jejawi
  • Micronesia, Federated states of: au au
  • Northern Mariana Islands: nunu
  • Palau: lulk
  • Puerto Rico: jaguey

EPPO code

  • FIUMI (Ficus microcarpa)

Summary of Invasiveness

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F. microcarpa is a high-risk, aggressively invasive, strangling fig or banyan tree native to Asia but cultivated pantropically (Center for Australian National Biodiversity Research, 2010; PIER, 2014). It is reportedly invasive to some places where its specialist pollinator wasp has also been introduced, including Hawaii, Florida, Bermuda, French Polynesia, Guam, the Bonin Islands, and parts of the West Indies, Central and South America (Randall, 2012; PIER, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2014). In a risk assessment prepared for Hawaii, the species received a high risk score of 10, indicating its likely threat to native flora (PIER, 2014). The species is listed as “agricultural weed, cultivation escape, environmental weed, garden thug, naturalised, noxious weed, sleeper weed, weed” in the Global Compendium of Weeds (Randall, 2012), and was included on the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council’s Invasive Plant List (Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council, 2013). It is known to have escaped from cultivation, produces a large number of viable seeds which are ingested and spread by birds and animals and which are capable of growing in a wide range of conditions, and outcompetes native flora by strangling its host plant with its aerial roots during its early life as an epiphyte, as well as by shading when its large, dense canopy develops (Little and Skolmen, 1989; Randall, 2012).

Taxonomic Tree

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

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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Often called the mulberry family, Moraceae consists of about 40 genera and 1000 species of trees, shrubs, lianas, or rarely herbs, nearly all with milky sap, and mainly of tropical or subtropical origin (University of Hawaii, 2014). 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 Pfa¨nder, 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.

Ficus is a large genus of about 800-1000 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).

The species name F. microcarpa refers to the species’ small-sized figs, about 8 mm in diameter (Little and Skolmen, 1989). The name has been misapplied to Ficus retusa and Ficus nitida, and these species reportedly all have the common name ‘laurel de la India’ (Acevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012; Oviedo-Prieto et al., 2012; Missouri Botanical Garden, 2014). Several species are currently being reviewed as synonyms of F. microcarpa, and infraspecific taxa under review include F. microcarpa var. hillii (F.M.Bailey) Corner and F. microcarpa var. naumannii (Engl.) Corner (Missouri Botanical Garden, 2014).

Description

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Variable in habit, often epiphytic, subscandent shrubs when young, in maturity spreading evergreen trees with large branches and numerous aerial roots hanging from the trunk and branches, these sometimes reaching the soil to form pillar-like roots. Leaves: variable, coriaceous, oblong, elliptic to broadly elliptic or obovate, usually 5-8 cm long, 3-5 cm wide, glabrous, margins entire, petioles 0.6-2 cm long. Flowers: synconia sessile, arising among or just below the leaves, depressed-globose, 6-10 mm in diameter, subtended by 3 broadly ovate, ± persistent bracts. 

Plant Type

Top of page Perennial
Seed propagated
Shrub
Tree
Vegetatively propagated
Woody

Distribution

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F. microcarpa is native to China, eastern Asia, the Indian subcontinent, Indo-China, Malesia, Australia, and the southwestern Pacific region, but has been introduced to and cultivated in the Americas including the West Indies and the United States (Wiersema and Leon, 1999; Acevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012).

Some discrepancies in the reported distribution were found among sources. F. microcarpa has been reported as both introduced and native to Kosrae Island and the Marshall Islands in Micronesia, as well as in Guam and New Caledonia (PIER, 2014). The species is known to be of Old World origin and an introduction to the West Indies (Acevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012), but Broome et al. (2007) report this species as native to the Caribbean region. 

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

BhutanPresentNative Natural USDA-ARS, 2014
CambodiaPresentNative Natural USDA-ARS, 2014
ChinaPresentNativeWiersema and León, 1999; Quattrocchi, 2012; Flora of Pakistan, 2014
-FujianPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2014
-GuangdongPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2014
-GuangxiPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2014
-GuizhouPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2014
-HainanPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2014
-YunnanPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2014
-ZhejiangPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2014
Christmas Island (Indian Ocean)PresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2014
Cocos IslandsPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2014
IndiaPresentNativeWiersema and León, 1999; Quattrocchi, 2012; Flora of Pakistan, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2014
-Tamil NaduPresentWBN Flora Database, 2014
IndonesiaPresentNativePIER, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2014
-Irian JayaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2014
-JavaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2014
-MoluccasPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2014; WBN Flora Database, 2014
-Nusa TenggaraPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2014; WBN Flora Database, 2014Lesser Sunda Is.
-SumatraPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2014
IraqPresentIntroducedFlora of Pakistan, 2014‘introduced and cultivated’
JapanPresentIntroduced Invasive PIER, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2014Ogasawara (Bonin) Is.
-Ryukyu ArchipelagoPresent Natural Flora of Pakistan, 2014Ryukyu Is.
LaosPresentNative Natural USDA-ARS, 2014
MalaysiaPresentNative Natural USDA-ARS, 2014
MyanmarPresentNative Natural USDA-ARS, 2014
NepalPresent Natural Quattrocchi, 2012
PakistanPresentIntroducedFlora of Pakistan, 2014‘introduced and cultivated’
PhilippinesPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2014
SingaporePresentNativeChong et al., 2009; PIER, 2014‘common’
Sri LankaPresentNativeWhistler, 2000; Quattrocchi, 2012; USDA-ARS, 2014; WBN Flora Database, 2014
TaiwanPresentNativePIER, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2014; WBN Flora Database, 2014
ThailandPresentNative Natural USDA-ARS, 2014
VietnamPresentNative Natural USDA-ARS, 2014

Africa

Cape VerdePresentWeber, 2003
MadagascarPresentWeber, 2003
RéunionPresent only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedPIER, 2014
SeychellesPresentWeber, 2003
Spain
-Canary IslandsPresentWeber, 2003

North America

CanadaPresentWeber, 2003
MexicoPresentIntroducedWeber, 2003; Flora Mesoamericana, 2014; WBN Flora Database, 2014
USAPresentWeber, 2003All but northeastern USA
-FloridaPresentIntroduced Invasive Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council, 2013; IFAS, 2014; PIER, 2014
-HawaiiPresentIntroducedWhistler, 2000; Weber, 2003; PIER, 2014; Wagner et al., 2014‘naturalized’

Central America and Caribbean

Antigua and BarbudaPresentNativeBroome et al., 2007; Acevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012Antigua
BarbadosPresentNativeBroome et al., 2007
Dominican RepublicPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012
El SalvadorPresentIntroducedFlora Mesoamericana, 2014; WBN Flora Database, 2014
HaitiPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012
HondurasPresentIntroducedFlora Mesoamericana, 2014; WBN Flora Database, 2014
MontserratPresentNativeBroome et al., 2007
NicaraguaPresentIntroducedFlora Mesoamericana, 2014; Flora of Nicaragua, 2014; WBN Flora Database, 2014
PanamaPresentIntroducedFlora Mesoamericana, 2014; Panama Checklist, 2014; WBN Flora Database, 2014
Puerto RicoPresentIntroducedLiogier and Martorell, 2000; Acevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012
Saint Kitts and NevisPresentNativeBroome et al., 2007
Saint LuciaPresentNativeBroome et al., 2007
Trinidad and TobagoPresentWBN Flora Database, 2014
United States Virgin IslandsPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012St. Croix

South America

ArgentinaPresentWeber, 2003; WBN Flora Database, 2014
BoliviaPresentIntroducedBolivia Checklist, 2014; WBN Flora Database, 2014‘Cultivated’. Beni
BrazilPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-AcrePresentWBN Flora Database, 2014
-Sao PauloPresentWBN Flora Database, 2014
ChilePresentWeber, 2003
ColombiaPresentWBN Flora Database, 2014‘Valle del Cauca’
EcuadorPresentWBN Flora Database, 2014Guayas
-Galapagos IslandsPresentWeber, 2003
ParaguayPresentWBN Flora Database, 2014Central
PeruPresentIntroducedPeru Checklist, 2014; WBN Flora Database, 2014‘disturbed areas’ Loreto, Maynas
VenezuelaPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012; WBN Flora Database, 2014Margarita (offshore island)

Europe

FrancePresentWeber, 2003central
ItalyPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-SicilyPresentIntroducedDAISIE, 2014
PortugalPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-AzoresPresentWeber, 2003
-MadeiraPresentWeber, 2003
SpainPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
UKPresent

Oceania

AustraliaPresentNativeWiersema and León, 1999; Acevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012; Quattrocchi, 2012
-QueenslandPresentNativeCentre for Australian National Biodiversity Research, 2010; PIER, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2014Cape York Peninsular, northeast Queensland
French PolynesiaPresentIntroduced Invasive PIER, 2014
GuamPresentPIER, 2014; Wagner et al., 2014
Marshall IslandsPresentWagner et al., 2014var. microcarpa:
Micronesia, Federated states ofPresentNativeWhistler, 2000; PIER, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2014; Wagner et al., 2014
New CaledoniaPresent Natural Flora of Pakistan, 2014; PIER, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2014; Wagner et al., 2014
New ZealandPresentWeber, 2003; Randall, 2012
Northern Mariana IslandsPresentLittle and Skolmen, 1989; PIER, 2014
PalauPresentLittle and Skolmen, 1989; PIER, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2014; Wagner et al., 2014
Papua New GuineaPresentNative Natural USDA-ARS, 2014
Solomon IslandsPresentNativePIER, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2014
TongaPresentIntroduced Invasive PIER, 2014
US Minor Outlying IslandsPresentIntroduced Invasive PIER, 2014Midway Atoll

History of Introduction and Spread

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F. microcarpa is native to the Old World tropics but has been widely cultivated pantropically, and, in many places where its species-specific pollinator wasp has been introduced, F. microcarpa has naturalized or in some cases become invasive. In the US state of Florida, the species was said to have first been planted by Thomas Edison in Fort Meyers as a gift from Harvey Firestone, and has been present since at least 1912 (Kaufman and Kaufman, 2007); it began spreading by seed in the 1970s after an apparently accidental introduction of its species-specific pollinating wasp, and is now known to be invasive in Florida (IFAS, 2014).

Similarly, in the West Indies the species was not listed in Britton’s work on Bermuda (1918) but is now known to be a notorious invasive species there following the accidental introduction of its wasp sometime in the 1980s (Starr et al., 2003; Randall, 2012; Bermuda Department of Conservation Services, 2014). Date of the species’ introduction to the West Indies region is uncertain, but, based on its exclusion from Britton’s work on Bermuda (1918) and Bello’s (1881; 1883) work on Puerto Rico, it may have occurred relatively recently. Britton did collect specimens in 1903 from Cuba and in 1925 from Puerto Rico that are now held in the New York Botanical Garden herbarium.

In Hawaii, the pollinator wasp was intentionally introduced in 1938, and since then F. microcarpa has become a high-risk major invasive species across the islands (PIER, 2014). The species has become an established alien species in Sicily, Italy (DAISIE, 2014). In Pakistan, the species is occasionally planted in gardens and nurseries in Karachi and Lahore (Flora of Pakistan, 2014). In other places, the species has been cultivated as a common ornamental but does not appear to have naturalized due to the absence of its pollinator wasp. 

Risk of Introduction

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F. microcarpa is a very high-risk species, and was given a high risk score of 10 (score of 6 or greater = likely to pose threat to native ecosystem) in a risk assessment prepared for Hawaii (PIER, 2014).

In Florida, F. microcarpa is a Category I invasive species on the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council's 2013 List of Invasive Plant Species, defined as “invasive exotics that are altering native plant communities by displacing native species, changing community structures or ecological functions, or hybridizing with natives”, based on “the ecological damage caused”. Invaded habitats include pine rockland, hardwood forests, and disturbed places (Weber, 2003).

Habitat List

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CategoryHabitatPresenceStatus
Littoral
Coastal areas Present, no further details Natural
Terrestrial-managed
Cultivated / agricultural land Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Disturbed areas Present, no further details Natural
Disturbed areas Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Managed forests, plantations and orchards Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Rail / roadsides Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Urban / peri-urban areas Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Terrestrial-natural/semi-natural
Natural forests Present, no further details Natural
Natural forests Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Riverbanks Present, no further details Natural

Biology and Ecology

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Reproductive Biology

The species is capable of producing a fig-like fruit that contains about 150 seeds, and a single tree may produce up to 100,000 fruit which are eaten by birds and spread both locally and long-distance (Bermuda Department of Conservation Services, 2014).

Physiology and Phenology

Like many other Ficus species, F. microcarpa often begins life as an epiphyte, surrounding its host tree with its roots and eventually strangling it. The species also creates dense, impenetrable thickets that will shade out and kill any flora beneath it (Motooka et al., 2003; Weber, 2003; Bermuda Department of Conservation Services, 2014).

Associations

Each member of the Ficus genus has a symbiotic relationship with an agaonid wasp; just as each Ficus species requires a specific wasp in order to pollinate, the wasp will only lay eggs within its associated Ficus species (Starr et al., 2003). The wasp associated with F. microcarpa is Eupristinaverticillata.

Environmental Requirements

F. microcarpa generally grows at lower elevations and within tropical and temperate climate zones. In Queensland, Australia, for example, the species occurs in tropical rainforest climate and has a reported altitudinal range of 0-400 m (Centre for Australian National Biodiversity Research, 2010). In Bolivia and Peru, it is reported for 0-500 m (Bolivia Checklist, 2014; Peru Checklist, 2014) and in Panama, 0-1000 m (Panama Checklist, 2014), while in China it has been recorded for mountain and plain regions below 1900 m (PIER, 2014).

 

Climate

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ClimateStatusDescriptionRemark
Af - Tropical rainforest climate Preferred > 60mm precipitation per month
Am - Tropical monsoon climate Preferred Tropical monsoon climate ( < 60mm precipitation driest month but > (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])
Cf - Warm temperate climate, wet all year Preferred Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, wet all year

Soil Tolerances

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Special soil tolerances

  • infertile

Notes on Natural Enemies

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F. microcarpa is highly susceptible to attack by dry-wood termites (Little and Skolmen, 1989). A number of insects attack the species in Hawaii, including the Cuban laurel thrip (Gynaikothrips ficorum) and the banyan leaf gall wasp (Josephiella sp.) (Starr et al., 2003).

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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F. microcarpa is dispersed by several different vectors. Seeds are spread both locally and long distance by over 200 vertebrate species that reportedly consume the synconia figs, mainly birds and some fruit bats, as well as dispersal by ants (Shanahan et al., 2001; Starr et al., 2003). In Florida, seeds are dispersed by ants attracted to an oily tissue coating the seed (Nadel et al., 1991).

Pathway Causes

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CauseNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Digestion and excretionSeeds of this species are known to be dispersed by over 200 vertebrate species including birds and b Yes Yes Shanahan et al., 2001; Starr et al., 2003
Escape from confinement or garden escape Yes Randall, 2012
HorticultureHas been introduced and cultivated beyond its native range for use as an ornamental and shade tree Yes Yes Hanelt et al., 2001; PIER, 2014; Randall, 2012; USDA-ARS, 2014
Landscape improvementHas been introduced and cultivated beyond its native range for use as an ornamental and shade tree Yes Yes Hanelt et al., 2001; PIER, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2014
Medicinal use Yes Yes Hanelt et al., 2001; USDA-ARS, 2014
Ornamental purposes Yes Yes Hanelt et al., 2001; PIER, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2014

Impact Summary

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CategoryImpact
Environment (generally) Negative

Economic Impact

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F. microcarpa is known to negatively impact native flora and ecosystems by not only strangling and replacing host trees during its early life as an epiphyte, but by forming dense canopies that shade out native flora. The extensive root systemst can damage infrastructure and anything else in the ground surrounding the tree. 

Social Impact

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Seedlings of F. microcarpa can sprout almost anywhere that a seed lands, including walls, roofs and gutters of buildings. The root systems can be very damaging to buildings and stonework. In Bermuda, the plant is therefore considered a threat to historic buildings as well as to the natural environment (Bermuda Department of Conservation Services, 2014). In Hawaii, it damages concrete ditches which transport water (Starr et al., 2003).

Risk and Impact Factors

Top of page Invasiveness
  • Invasive in its native range
  • Proved invasive outside its native range
  • Abundant in its native range
  • 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
Impact outcomes
  • Damaged ecosystem services
  • Host damage
  • Infrastructure damage
Impact mechanisms
  • Competition - shading
  • Competition - strangling
  • Parasitism (incl. parasitoid)
  • Rapid growth
  • Rooting
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately
  • Difficult to identify/detect as a commodity contaminant

Uses

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F. microcarpa has been introduced and cultivated pantropically for use an ornamental plant (Wiersema and Leon, 1999). In southern India the species is reportedly cultivated as a shade tree in coffee plantations, and it is abundantly planted in southeast Asia and other tropical regions as an ornamental tree, as well as for its use in traditional medicine in India, Malaysia, and southern China (Hanelt et al., 2001). The species is grown as both an indoor house plant and as a shade tree in Puerto Rico, where it has now become persistent (Liogier and Martorell, 2000).

Uses List

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Environmental

  • Landscape improvement

General

  • Ornamental

Medicinal, pharmaceutical

  • Traditional/folklore

Ornamental

  • Potted plant

Prevention and Control

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Prevention

Like all members of the Ficus genus, the species requires a specialist pollinator wasp in order to set viable seed. Especially in places where F. microcarpa has been introduced but has not yet become invasive, it is a high priority to prevent the wasp from entering non-native areas in order to prevent the species’ spread.

Chemical Control

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

Physical Control

The species can be physically controlled by pruning to prevent the plant from maturing into a woody shrub or tree-like form.

Biological Control

Non-pollinating fig wasps have been suggested as possible biocontrol agents for invasive Ficus spp. At least 43 fig wasps utilize F. microcarpa figs, with more than 20 species present in the plant’s introduced range (Wang, 2014). A large galler species, Meselatus bicolor, is independent of the pollinator and can suppress both male and female reproductive successes of figs via competition for nutrients and preventing pollinators from entering figs, making it a potential biocontrol agent (Wang, 2014). Wang et al. (2015) reported the presence of this species in the Mediterranean region. M. bicolor prevents seeds and pollinators from developing in the figs it occupies, and has only been recorded from F. microcarpa, giving it the potential to be a valuable biological control agent in other countries outside the Mediterranean where F. microcarpa has become invasive (Wang et al., 2015).

References

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Links to Websites

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WebsiteURLComment
Flora of Micronesia websitehttp://botany.si.edu/pacificislandbiodiversity/micronesia/index.htm
Flora of Pakistan/Pakistan Plant Database (PPD). Tropicos websitehttp://www.tropicos.org/Project/Pakistan
Flora of the Hawaiian Islandshttp://botany.si.edu/pacificislandbiodiversity/hawaiianflora/index.htm
Flora of the West Indieshttp://botany.si.edu/antilles/WestIndies/
Hawaiian Ecosystems at Risk Project (HEAR)http://www.hear.org/
PIERhttp://www.hear.org/pier/index.html

Contributors

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18/12/2014 Original text by:

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

Pedro Acevedo-Rodríguez, Department of Botany-Smithsonian NMNH, Washington DC, USA

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