|Ficus macrophylla subsp. var.||Moreton Bay Fig|
Ficus macrophylla, commonly known as the Moreton Bay Fig, is a large evergreen banyan tree of the Moraceae family that is a native of most of the eastern coast of Australia, from the Atherton Tableland (17° S) in the north to the Illawarra (34° S) in New South Wales, and Lord Howe Island. Its common name is derived from Moreton Bay in Queensland, Australia. It is best known for its beautiful buttress roots, which are also known for damaging municipal footpaths.
As Ficus macrophylla is a strangler fig; seed germination usually takes place in the canopy of a host tree and the seedling lives as an epiphyte until its roots establish contact with the ground. It then enlarges and strangles its host, eventually becoming a freestanding tree by itself. Individuals may reach 60 m (200 ft) in height. Like all figs, it has an obligate mutualism with fig wasps; figs are only pollinated by fig wasps, and fig wasps can only reproduce in fig flowers.
Ficus macrophylla is widely used as a feature tree in public parks and gardens in warmer climates such as California, Portugal, Sicily and Australia. Old specimens can reach tremendous size. Its aggressive root system allows its use in only the largest private gardens.
The Moreton Bay Fig is an evergreen tree that can reach heights of 60 m (200 ft). The trunk can be massive, with thick, prominent buttressing, and reach a diameter of 2.4 m (8 ft). The rough bark is grey-brown, and marked with various blemishes. It is monoecious: each tree bears functional male and female flowers. As implied by its specific epithet, it has large, elliptic, leathery, dark green leaves, 15–30 cm (6–12 in) long, and they are arranged alternately on the stems. The leaves and branches bleed a milky sap if cut or broken. The figs are 2–2.5 cm (0.75–1 in) in diameter, turning from green to purple with lighter spots as they ripen; ripe fruit may be found year round, although more abundant from February to May. Although edible, they are unpalatable and dry.
The characteristic "melting" appearance of the Moreton Bay fig is due to its habit of dropping aerial roots from its branches, which upon reaching the ground, thicken into supplementary trunks which help to support the weight of its crown.
It is a rainforest plant and in this environment more often grows in the form of an epiphytic strangler vine than that of a tree. When its seeds land in the branch of a host tree it sends aerial, 'strangler' roots down the host trunk, eventually killing the host and standing alone.
Its roots are surface feeding and it is quite susceptible to earth compaction around its trunk, which is why in many locations these trees are fenced. It is water-hungry, and like many Australian trees should neither be planted in urban environments where its roots may damage piping, nor where water is scarce.
|Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture|
Ficus macrophylla, Desf. Moreton Bay Fig. Lvs. 6-10 in. long, 3-4 in. wide; stipules 2-4 in. long: fr. nearly globular, 9-12 lines thick, axillary, in 3's or 4's, on short, thick peduncles. Austral.—Much planted in S. and Cent. Calif., where, however, it does not produce seed. F. von Mueller says it is perhaps the grandest of Australian avenue trees. Ernest Braunton claimes for this species partial or perhaps complete immunity from frost. He cites a specimen in California which leaved out after a heavy frost and is still healthy after more than a year since the frost. CH
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- Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture, by L. H. Bailey, MacMillan Co., 1963
- w:Ficus macrophylla. Some of the material on this page may be from Wikipedia, under the Creative Commons license.
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