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 Ficus carica subsp. var.  Fig
Common Fig foliage and fruit
Habit: tree
Height: to
Width: to
35ft 15ft
Height: warning.png"" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki. to 35 ft
Width: warning.png"" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki. to 15 ft
Lifespan: perennial
Origin: W Asia
Exposure: sun
Features: deciduous, edible, fruit, foliage
Hidden fields, interally pass variables to right place
Minimum Temp: °Fwarning.png"°F" is not a number.
USDA Zones: 10 to 12
Sunset Zones: 4-9, 12-31, warmer 32, pots
Flower features:
Moraceae > Ficus carica var. ,

Adaptation: The fig grows best and produces the best quality fruit in Mediterranean and dryer warm-temperate climates. Rains during fruit development and ripening can cause the fruits to split. With extra care figs will also grow in wetter, cooler areas. Diseases limit utility in tropical climates. Fully dormant trees are hardy to 12° - 15° F, but plants in active growth can be damaged at 30° F. Fig plants killed to the ground will often resprout from the roots. Only the hardiest cultivars should be attempted in areas such as the Willamette Valley, the Sierra Nevada and high desert. However, all cultivars are suitable elsewhere in California. Chilling requirements for the fig are less than 300 hours. In containers figs are eye-catching specimens inside or outdoors. It is best to choose a slow-growing cultivar.

Growth Habit: The fig is a picturesque deciduous tree, to 50 ft tall, but more typically to a height of 10 - 30 ft. Their branches are muscular and twisting, spreading wider than they are tall. Fig wood is weak and decays rapidly. The trunk often bears large nodal tumors, where branches have been shed or removed. The twigs are terete and pithy rather than woody. The sap contains copious milky latex that is irritating to human skin. Fig trees often grow as a multiple-branched shrub, especially where subjected to frequent frost damage. They may be espaliered, but only where roots may be restricted, as in containers.

Foliage: Fig leaves are bright green, single, alternate and large (to 1 ft length). They are more or less deeply lobed with 1 - 5 sinuses, rough hairy on the upper surface and soft hairy on the underside. In summer their foliage lends a beautiful tropical feeling.

Flowers: The tiny flowers of the fig are out of sight, clustered inside the green "fruits", technically a synconium. Pollinating insects gain access to the flowers through an opening at the apex of the synconium. In the case of the common fig the flowers are all female and need no pollination. There are 3 other types, the caprifig which has male and female flowers requiring visits by a tiny wasp, Blastophaga grossorum; the Smyrna fig, needing cross-pollination by caprifigs in order to develop normally; and the San Pedro fig which is intermediate, its first crop independent like the common fig, its second crop dependent on pollination.

Fruits: The common fig bears a first crop, called the breba crop, in the spring on last season's growth. The second crop is borne in the fall on the new growth and is known as the main crop. In cold climates the breba crop is often destroyed by spring frosts. The matured "fruit" has a tough peel (pure green, green suffused with brown, brown or purple), often cracking upon ripeness, and exposing the pulp beneath. The interior is a white inner rind containing a seed mass bound with jelly-like flesh. The edible seeds are numerous and generally hollow, unless pollinated. Pollinated seeds provide the characteristic nutty taste of dried figs.

More information about this species can be found on the genus page.

Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture

Fig (Plate XLII) is Ficus carica, a native of Asia. It is a warm-temperate fruit, although it will stand 10° to 20° of frost under favorable conditions. It was early introduced into North America, but until recent years it has been little grown commercially. It has been known to fruit in the open in Michigan without other protection than a high board fence inclosure, but usually, if grown north of Philadelphia, the plants are lifted in early November, with good balls of earth, kept in a dryish cellar over winter, and planted out the next spring. From Philadelphia to the Carolinas it may be bent to the ground and covered with earth or pine boughs. The fruit is borne on the young wood, and often on young trees. This fruit is really a hollow pear-shaped receptacle with many minute seeds (botanically fruits) on the inside; it grows like a branch from the side of the shoot. Inferior, run-wild forms are frequent in the southern states, where they are sometimes called "old man and woman" by the negroes. Figs may be grown under glass, being planted permanently in a border after the manner of hothouse grapes. They usually bear better if the branches are trained more or less horizontally. Two or more crops may be expected in one year under glass. Eastern nurserymen sell fig trees. As early as 1833 Kenrick ("New American Orchardist") described 23 varieties. Popular varieties for amateur cultivation in the East are Turkey, White Genoa, Black Ischia and Celeste. In order to facilitate the ripening of the fruit in cool climates or under glass, it is a custom to dress the surface of the nearly full-grown figs with sweet oil. As a dessert fruit figs are usually eaten in the fresh state, in which condition they are scarcely known to people in cool climates. They are also cooked, and preserved. The commercial fig is the dried fruit.

The fig is propagated very easily from hardwood cuttings, as grapes are. Take cuttings in the fall, removing just below a bud. If wood is scarce, single-eye cuttings may be used, being started preferably in a frame. From cuttings, bearing plants may be expected in two to four years. New varieties are obtained from seeds.

Various fruit books give directions for the growing of figs. Publications in California and of the United States Department of Agriculture discuss them. But the only independent American writing seems to be James T. Worthington's "Manual of Fig-Culture in the Northern and Middle States," Chillicothe, Ohio, 1869. Although regularly copyrighted, it is a pamphlet of only ten pages. It recommends the laying down of the trees in late fall and covering them with earth. This practice gave better results than covering with other material, or carrying the trees over winter in cellars, either in tubs or transplanted from the open (p. 1552). L H. B.

Figs in the southeastern and Gulf states.

In the southeastern Atlantic and Gulf states the fig has been cultivated since the days of the earliest settlements. The exact time of introduction and indeed the exact origin of many of the more important varieties are unknown. For many years the trees, or more properly bushes, found a place as dooryard or garden plants, and to this clay some of the finest specimens are to be found near the shelter of buildings in country, town or village. The fruit was used by the owners of the bushes and the surplus found its way into the local market.

Within the last ten to twenty years, attention has been given to the fig as a commercial fruit and it has found a place as an orchard fruit in many localities. Its culture may be said to extend from Norfolk, Virginia, southward along the Atlantic coast, and around the Gulf of Mexico into Texas. In proximity to the water it is grown without protection, but inland, particularly in the northern limits of its range, the bushes are protected during the winter months, by bending them down and covering with boards, straw, heavy paper, in fact anything that will cover them. With some care in protecting the plants by laying them down and covering in winter, the fig is grown beyond the region in which it has a place as an orchard fruit. Most of the orchard plantings have been made in close proximity to the ocean or gulf.

The propagation of the fig in this region is almost entirely by cuttings made from well-ripened wood and planted during winter or in early spring. The hardened wood from old bearing trees gives the most satisfactory results. The cuttings should be 4 to 5 inches long, and cut through the nodes. In planting, the cuttings are set with the upper ends level with the surface of the earth.

Soils best adapted to the growing of the fig are clay soils, or heavy soils, which are or may be kept uniformly moist. No greater mistake can be made than to attempt the culture of the fig in light sandy soils, more or less deficient in moisture in the lower South. Under these conditions, the nematode (root-knot) works serious damage to the roots of the trees and the planting soon dies out. But on heavy soils, the nematodes are not able to work such havoc and the fig thrives in spite of their limited attacks. On light soils, the fig may be grown in the well-packed earth of yards or planted against buildings where the roots may find their way into the soil beneath the buildings, where the nematode has been starved out for lack of food plants. The shaded condition of the soil is also beneficial. It is doubtful whether a successful planting can be made on any large scale on light soils in the lower South for the reasons just indicated


The varieties which may be grown successfully in the area indicated belong to the group which will carry good crops of fruit without pollination. On account of climatic conditions, it is doubtful whether figs of the class requiring caprification can ever be successfully grown.

The more important varieties are the following: Black Ischia.—Size medium to large; color of skin bluish black, almost entirely covered with delicate bluish bloom; flesh creamy white; quality good. Strong grower, not a heavy bearer but quite hardy. Season late.

Brunswick.—Fruit very large, broadly pear-shaped with short, rather slender stalk; ribs well marked, eye large, open with rosy scales; skin tough, dark brown in color; pulp thick, pink, soft, quality fair. Midseason and late.

Celeste.—Small to medium, pear-shaped, ribbed; violet-colored, sometimes shading purplish brown, covered with bloom about half way up from the neck; stem short, stout; flesh whitish, shading to rose-color at center; firm, juicy, sweet, excellent quality. One of the hardiest varieties of figs, and can be grown far outside of the usual limits of culture; very desirable for canning and preserving. Season early.

White Ischia.—Fruit of medium size, turbinate; skin greenish yellow; pulp rosy, red, soft, melting; quality rich, sweet; a variety of high quality. Very productive. Season late.

Lemon.—Fruit medium to large, flattened, faintly ribbed, light yellowish green; stem short, stout; flesh white, sweet, rather soft; quality fair to good. Vigorous and prolific. Early.

Magnolia.—Fruit of large size; amber-colored; flesh pinkish amber, handsome. Vigorous grower; prolific; excellent for canning. Midseason and late.

Turkey (Brown Turkey).—Size medium to large; broadly pear-shaped, with short, thick stalk; ribs few in number; color coppery brown; flesh white, or slightly amber-colored, shading to pink about the seeds; flesh solid, excellent quality. It is very hardy and prolific. Midseason and late.

Of the varieties just described, the more important commercial sorts are Celeste, Turkey, Brunswick and Magnolia.

Magnolia is the favorite variety along the coast in Texas from Beaumont southward. In the eastern Atlantic states it is not so favorably regarded, as the fruit splits and sours on the trees during the rainy weather which so often comes when the crop is maturing. It is entirely distinct from the Turkey fig. Turkey or Brown Turkey is very hardy, of dwarf growth and therefore a favorite in the colder sections in which the trees must be protected during winter. Celeste equals Turkey in hardiness, but it is a more robust grower. It is the most commonly planted variety from Beaumont, Texas, eastward, and in the southeastern states should generally be given preference for orchard planting. Brunswick, on account of its large handsome appearance is a desirable variety for the production of fresh fruit for market.

General cultivation.

In setting the fig in orchard, the trees are commonly placed 10 by 15 feet or 12 by 20 feet in thoroughly plowed and pulverized soil. January and February in the lower South are favorite months for planting, but in the colder sections it is usually better to delay planting until after spring opens. While setting the trees, great care should be taken to prevent the roots from becoming dried out. This point must be strongly emphasized, as the character of fig roots is such that they will not stand drying.

It is not best to attempt to train the figs to tree form, but to allow them to develop with three or four trunks. To start them in bush form it is necessary to cut the plants back hard at time of planting. In case of severe weather during winter there is much less danger of losing whole trees if grown with several stems or trunks than if grown with single trunks. Subsequent pruning should be done to remove any sprouts or suckers that come up from the ground, to remove dead or injured branches, and to shape the form of the trees during the first few seasons. Branches that have to be removed for any cause should be cut back entirely rather than to stubs. The fig will not stand severe pruning year after year, such as has sometimes been attempted, and it is best to prune as little as possible to keep the trees in good shape.

As the fig is a shallow-rooted tree, deep tillage is impossible. The orchard should not be plowed and implements for shallow cultivation only should be used. There is no better tillage tool than an ordinary hoe, but its use is too expensive on large plantings. It may, however, be used in the garden plot. Cultivation should begin in spring just in advance of the starting of growth and should continue at weekly or ten-day intervals until about July 1. Cover-crops of cowpeas or beggarweed should then cover the ground until autumn. In the handling of plantings of the later- ripening sorts, cultivation should be continued later in the season, and a winter cover-crop used instead of a summer one. Stable manure and commercial fertilizer should be used liberally to supply the necessary plant- food.

A considerable amount of fruit can be and is handled in the markets as fresh fruit. It should be carefully cut from the trees early in the morning, selecting only well-colored but firm fruit, packed in strawberry carriers and shipped by express. When the work is properly handled in this way, its marketing presents no serious difficulties within a radius of 100 miles or so in the lower South and even greater distances in the northern area of its possible culture. By far the greater quantity of fruit is used by the canneries in the manufacture of preserved figs. A very delicious product is manufactured in the lower South, and meets with a ready sale.

H. Harold Hume.

The fig in California.

The fig, as grown in California at the present time, illustrates, perhaps more than any other fruit, the difficulties that arise in the course of the introduction of any new and highly specialized industry. Years of time and the united labors of many persons have at last resulted in the permanent establishment of fig- culture on a large scale in some parts of California. The successive steps by which this has been accomplished form one of the most remarkable chapters in our horticultural history.

The edible cultivated fig is a native of southwestern Asia and undoubtedly ranks as one of the most ancient, beautiful and valuable of all fruit trees, forming a large part of the daily food of the people in those countries in which it thrives. The common name fig comes from Ficus, and that from the Hebrew "feg." The importation of figs, dried, canned or preserved, into regions unsuited to their growth, forms an immense and increasing group of industries. The literature of the fig, always very large, is receiving continual additions, as new varieties are introduced, as new values are found for the varied products and as its culture is being extended far beyond what were thought, twenty years ago, to be its inflexible climatic limitations.

The botanical varieties of the edible fig (Finis carica) as generally recognized include the following: (1) Ficus carica var. sylvestris, the all-important wild fig of Asia Minor; (2) Ficus carica var. smyrniaca; (3) Ficus carica var. hortensis; (4) Ficus carica var. intermedia.

The first of these, commonly known as the Capri fig, is not edible, but it was discovered ages ago that the famous little fig-wasp, formerly called Blasiophaga psenes but now determined as Blastophaga grossorum, breeds within it and is able to cross-pollinate the flowers of the invaluable Smyrna fig which otherwise will not perfect fruit. This process is termed "caprifica- tion" and is absolutely necessary for the maintenance of the highest grades of commercial orchards. The third of these groups includes all the self-fertilizing table and preserving varieties of the common fig. The fourth variety (intermedia) has the ability to mature one crop without cross-pollination, but not a second. The best figs for drying are all of the second class (Ficus carica var. smyrniaca) and three crops are the usual thing in average seasons. In fact, nearly all the cultivated figs bear three more or less distinct crops; in many orchards and gardens of California one may gather ripe figs every day from late July until frost and rains destroy the very perishable fruits.

Figs have been cultivated on the Pacific coast for more than two centuries, as it is thought that they were in the Mission gardens at Loreto, Lower California, before 1710. Father Zephyrin's monumental "History of the Franciscan Missions in California," three volumes of which have now been issued (1913), contains many facts about the first Mission gardens from San Diego to Dolores and Sonoma. The fig was in them all, and was spoken of by the early visitors to California, such as Malaspina, Menzies, Mocino and Vancouver. Santa Clara Mission had rows of very large fig trees before 1792.

At the present time (1913), the fig has become established over almost the entire horticultural area of California, wherever the temperature does not fall below 18° F. It does not thrive where there is much fog or where the summers are cold and windy, but even in such places if somewhat protected by walls or buildings, it matures fruit. When planted close to its climatic limits, a young tree needs special protection the first few years until the wood is mature and the growth less rapid. The fig is most at home in southern California, over the Coast Range Valleys, the San Joaquin and Sacramento Valleys to Northern Shasta, and up the lower slopes of the Sierras to about the elevation of 2,500 feet in central California—to 3,000 feet and upward farther south. Magnificent single trees and stately avenues abound in various places. Many trees now standing have trunks 3 feet in diameter. One in Stanislaus County is 80 feet in height; another in Butte County has rooted from drooping branches until it seems a whole grove. This is the notable General Bid- well tree at Chico (Mission Black variety) which covers a circle of 200 feet in diameter and has long been the pride of the region. Superb fig trees are found in all the old foothill and valley towns of California. A magnificent grove is on the old Thurber farm near Vacaville. Large commercial fig orchards have been planted, especially in Nesuo, Los Angeles, Butte, Santa Barbara, San Bernardino, Tulare, Merced, Sonoma, Placer, San Joaquin and Shasta Counties. The Maslin orchard near Loomis and the Roeding orchard east of Fresno are two of the most famous and successful ones in California. Fresno County now has 220,000 bearing fig trees, and Los Angeles nearly 100,000.


There are many horticultural varieties known to the markets and catalogues under innumerable synonyms. Their classification is by shape, color of skin and color of flesh. The shape is round or turbinate in some sorts, pyriform or obovate in others. The skin varies in color in different varieties from green through pale yellow, buff, light brown, reddish brown and purple, to black. The flesh is almost white, opaline, or various shades of red; it can be described as melting, spicy, juicy, coarse or even dry in a few old sorts. The size varies from those hardly as large as a green gage plum to others that sometimes weigh four or five ounces apiece. Eisen, in his useful and thorough monograph on the fig published by the Department of Agriculture (Division of Pomology, Bulletin No. 9, 1901) lists and describes nearly 400 varieties from different parts of the world. Eleven of these are Smyrnas, and twenty are varieties of the Capri or wild fig, differing in season so as to afford a succession and thus increase their value in caprification. Baja California, and Sonora, fine regions for the fig, have produced some varieties of promise, and others have been reported from South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, Tasmania, northern India, Algiers and many other places.

When the earlier California nurserymen began to grow figs, they first secured the Black Mission variety which the padres had brought from Mexico, and the little White Marseilles, which was at Santa Clara and Santa Barbara before the discovery of gold. They also obtained from Ellwanger and Barry, of Rochester, and from Berckmans, of Georgia, between 1860 and 1870, all the varieties then grown in America, principally for pot and greenhouse culture, not more than twenty-five sorts in all, chief among which were the Brown Turkey, Celeste, the Green and Black Ischias and the large Brunswick. Georgia and the Gulf coast were cultivating in gardens these sorts for home use, especially Celeste, which is fine for canning and preserving. There was therefore, much early correspondence between California nurserymen like William B. West. John Rock, Felix Gillet, James Shinn and others, and the fig-growers in the South, whose main drawback was in the frequent summer rains. Almost immediately, however, the Californians began to import trees from France, Italy, Spain, and later began to study the Smyrna fig industries. The catalogues of California nurserymen, by 1880, contained about 150 named varieties—with plenty of duplications, as was natural. The University of California experiment stations, by 1890, had about seventy-five varieties under trial and distributed them with great energy. The late John Rock, one of the most ardent horticulturists of his time in America, made many trips abroad and seldom failed to send back new kinds of figs. The inevitable and essential sifting down continued for over thirty years from 1880 until the nurseries of today list not to exceed thirty varieties. The principal sorts now in general cultivation, besides the very important Smyrna and Capri varieties sent out chiefly by George Roeding of Fresno, are the following:

Adriatic (Grosse Verte). Agen. Angelique. Black Ischia (Black Marseilles; Black Provence; the Reculver of England). Bourjasotte Blanche. Brown Turkey. Brunswick. Celeste (Celestine). Col di Signora Nigra. Dauphine. Doree. Drap d’Or. Du Roi. Lardaro. Madeline. Mission (California Black). Negro Largo. Pastiliere. Pingo de Mel. Ronde Noire. Ronde Violette Hative. Royal Vineyard. San Pedro (white). Smyrna (common type). White Genoa. White Ischia. White Marseilles.

A large amount of new experimenting has been done in California with fig varieties by the Bureau of Plant Industry which took up the work so well begun by Hilgard and others at the California Station. Lack of means and a general change of the University policy toward the sub-stations (where the fig orchards were located) led to the abandonment of those useful trials about 1902. Fortunately, the United States Department of Agriculture had become deeply interested in the Smyrna fig problem, and soon established plant gardens in California. Beagles, who has charge of the one near Chico, furnishes the following list of the varieties being tested there in 1912, in addition to a great many seedlings and crosses under numbers and not yet in bearing. The list, as furnished by Beagles, is arranged in the order of securing the varieties, not alphabetically, and the first forty-four sorts are from the well-authenticated collection at Chiswick, England: De l’Archipel. Bontard. Grosse Marseilles. Peau dure. Negronne. Bourjassotte noire. Poulette. Ceil de Perdrix. Du Roi. Grosse Violette de Bordeaux. Datte. Monstrueuse. Bourjassote grise. A’ Bois Jaspee. Royal Vineyard. De Grasse. Euscaire Preto. Trois recoltes. Monaco bianco. Bondance Precoce. Trifer. Green Ischia. Hirta du Japon. St. Johns. Vebra. Datte Quotidienne. Arbal. De Jerusalem. Nebian. Vigasotte Bianco. Grise Savantine bifere. Quarteria. Douro Vebra. Reculver. Gourand Rouge. D’Agen. Lampa. Large Black Douro. Adam. De Constantine. Biberaeo. Grosse Verte. Violette Sepor. Dr. Hoggs Clare. Hardy Prolific. Figue d’Or. Recousee noire. Black Douro. Grassale. Martinique. Crave. White Ischia. Brown Turkey. Pastiliere. Negro largo. De la Madeleine. Col di Signora Bianca. Doree Nobis. Pingo de Mel. Black Ischia. Toulousienne. Gouraud noir. Doree. Brunswick. Gentile. White Adriatic. Pacific White. Vendome. Barbillonne. Figuires Blanch. Warren’s Brown Turkey. Capri Milco. Trojano. Capri Solms No. 1. Capri Solms No. 2. Capri Solms No. 3. Capri Solms No. 4. Dauphine.

The California Experiment Station, under Hilgard, found that several varieties which are no longer in ordinary cultivation were important. Chief among these was a French fig of compact growth, Hirta du Japon, a medium-sized, turbinate, dark purple fig of high quality. It is excellent for house culture and for small gardens.

Smyrna figs.

The story of the introduction of the fig-wasp, the indispensable Blastophaga, to California fig orchards is one of the amusing, pathetic and fascinating romances of outdoor life. Smyrna figs were planted early, and they did not bear; the trouble was indistinctly charged to "the climate;" growers laughed at the absurd "book notion" that the Asia Minor Greeks depended on "some sort of an insect" to secure abundant crops of fruit. The late John Bleasdale, who had been in Portugal, told many persons about fig-caprification early in the 1870's. Some of the nurserymen took it up with energy and managed to secure cuttings of Smyrna figs and of Capri figs, but no insects. The San Francisco "Bulletin,” between 1880 and 1882, secured and distributed over California about 14,000 cuttings. The fig-growers in Asia Minor became anxious to prevent importation of the insects to California or of the Capri fig cuttings, and the difficulties grew worse. Eisen and Rixford cross-fertilized figs by hand as soon as the wild fig trees blossomed. This was done on the James Shinn farm at Niles and at the California Nursery (managed by John Rock) in the same neighborhood". Then the Roedings of Fresno became interested, through Eisen, and planted a Smyrna fig orchard, but had no Blastophaga. Meanwhile the Department of Agriculture took hold. Walter Swingle was detailed and in 1899 secured the Algerian Blastophaga for the Californians. James Shinn, of Miles, had also obtained the Blastophaga in 1891, but his location was not suitable so that it perished and the work was done over again by both Swingle in 1899 and George Roeding, of Fresno, in 1896, working separately at different points of the problem. But all this time, the fig-wasp had accidentally become established near Modesto, about 1869, on the Gates farm. The wild fig tree there was, possibly, imported by West, of Stockton, in the form of cuttings carrying some of the "mamme" or winter generation of fruits containing the Blastophagas.

The literature of this whole subject is fascinating. It may be studied in the reports of the Department of Agriculture and in the following papers: "Some Points in the History of Caprification and in the Life History of the Fig," Walter T. Swingle, before the Thirty-fourth Fruit-Growers' Convention of California (1908); also his paper on the Maslin seedling fig orchard in the report of the thirty-fifth convention; also papers of his in the thirty-sixth and thirty-eighth reports; an essay by G. P. Rixford, read before the Forty-first Convention of California Fruit-Growers, in Santa Barbara, in 1912. His botanical and entomological paper, read in 1911 before the Pacific Association of Scientific Societies, on the "Fructification of the Fig by Blastophaga" traces the whole subject down from the days of Linnaeus. A practical paper on the subject is to be found in George C. Roeding's "California Horticulture," a pamphlet issued in 1909.


The work of study and experimentation has gone forward steadily since the first importation of the Blastophaga; it is likely that more has been done in this line in California in the past twenty years than in all the rest of the world put together. The practical methods of keeping the fig insect prosperously established so that every fruit can be fertilized are now well founded, and as the profits of the industry are generally recognized, large plantings can be expected. There are some obscure problems still undetermined relating to the different crops of figs and the fructification of some of the non-Smyrna types. But in California the industry as a whole finds possibly the most favorable soil and climate known to exist anywhere. It seems probable, therefore, that fig-growing will soon rank in importance with the growing of citrous fruits. The cultivated varieties of Smyrnas are doubtless capable of much improvement as regards size, crop and season.

Only thirty Capri figs are needed to caprify a large fig tree, so abundant are the insects and the pollen in good seasons, and one tree of the wild fig is sufficient for one hundred Smyrna trees. The male of the fig- wasp is without wings, but the female has wings and saw-like mandibles; she cuts her way through scales which interlock over the apex of the half-grown Smyrna fig. She loses her wings in entering, dies in the fig and is absorbed by the vegetable cells. If she lays her eggs they also perish and the continuance of the species depends upon those individuals that remain upon the wild fig trees.


The fig grows readily from cuttings. Use well-ripened wood of the previous season's growth, cut at the joint, and give them the same treatment required for grape cuttings. They will even grow from single- eye cuttings. Bottom heat is not necessary in California where the cuttings are set in nursery in December or January and are ready for the orchard in a year. In the eastern states, winter-made cuttings can be started with bottom heat, or, in April, in the open air.

Budding is best done by the annular or ring method, so useful for the chestnut and walnut. The fig can be cleft-grafted in February in California, but extreme care must be taken to exclude the air. Seedlings are easily grown from the fertile seeds of the imported Smyrna figs, and from the few fertile seeds occasionally appearing in' common varieties. Maslin, of Placer County, began to raise seedlings from imported dried figs in 1885 and these are now bearing.


The fig requires more heat under glass than does the grape. The temperatures preferred are, at first, 50° F. at night and, 65° for the day; later increase to 60° or 65° at night and 75° or more in the day. Figs must have much air and moisture till the crop is set. The best varieties for forcing are Early Violet, the White and Brown Ischias, White Marseilles, Hirta du Japon and Negro Largo. A soil of turfy loam with plenty of top- dressing is suitable for pots and tubs. Brown Turkey, Marseilles and Brunswick are the standard varieties for walls. Cultural methods in California.

The fig tree in California requires much space, hence it is used as an avenue tree or if in orchard form other trees are set between, to be afterward removed. In good soil, fig trees, like walnuts, should finally stand not less than 40 feet apart, and 50 feet is considered to be better.

Little pruning is required for the fig. Trees grown for table figs are headed low, about 18 inches from the ground, to facilitate picking. Trees grown for drying figs are headed higher so that they can better be kept smooth and clean, as the figs are usually allowed to ripen and fall. Cultivation is necessary until the trees completely shade the ground.

Figs begin to bear early in California, often the second or third year. Some trees prove barren or very poor bearers and must be replaced by others. The tree appears to be as long-lived as the olive, has very few insect enemies, and is not subject to disease. It is a good ornamental tree.

The fruit in some districts, in some seasons, ferments on the trees ("fig-sour"). This sometimes seems to come from over-irrigation, sometimes from lack of vitality, and most often occurs in very tender and juicy varieties.

The very dangerous fig moth (Ephestra cautella) is now widely distributed in America, although not yet in California. During the last few years, many cargoes of imported figs have been seized in New York and destroyed on account of this insect, which fills the fruit with eggs and ultimately with its larvae (Bulletin No. 104, 1911, Bureau of Entomology). Asiatic dried figs are not only subject to this pest but contain less sugar (1½ per cent less) and less proteids (1 1/3 per cent) than do the California dried figs.

Fig-drying.—The fig crop is handled with much care and cleanliness in California, and labor-saving methods are used in all cases. The figs must remain on the trees till fully ripe; then they shrivel and drop off, arc picked up, dipped in boiling brine (three ounces salt to one gallon water), placed on trays exposed to the sun and turned once. The later drying is done in the shade. The figs are next placed in the "sweat boxes" and "mixed" so as to equalize the moisture. They are then washed clean in a weak brine, drained off and taken to the packing-room. Exceeding care, cleanliness and much experience are required to produce high-grade results.

Fig avenues.—There is a growing interest felt in the fig as an avenue tree in California, since it is deciduous and so does not shade the road in winter, and since it thrives without culture or pruning where the moisture is sufficient and the soil deep.

Culture in other places.

While California probably offers the best climate on the continent for commercial fig-growing, the industry has a future over much of Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, the extreme South, Hawaii, Australia, large portions of South Africa, Mexico and the west coast of South America.

Fig-culture in the northern and middle parts of the United States is essentially different, of course, from the outdoor and orchard methods. The tree can be grown as a bush and protected each winter by covering the branches with several inches of soil. In the southern middle states, fig bushes are grown by covering in winter with matting and straw. One crop, or at most two, is all that can be expected. See the discussions on pages 1234 and 1235.

The crop.

Statistics are not well kept at present in the fig industry, but the annual California crop exceeds 4,000 tons (dried figs) while the local consumption of fresh figs is large and increasing. The fig pastes, conserves,and the like, and the use of figs in wafers and other forms is also general. As Smyrna exports about 30,000 tons in good years, there is evidently room for the California industry. The dried Smyrnas of California are equal to the best of Asia Minor and contain 64 per cent of sugar (Roeding's Calimyrna variety, the Erbeyli variety of its native country). Besides this variety, persons at Fresno are planting on a large scale the Kassaba, the Checker Injir of Scios, the Bardajic and what is called in California the purple Bulletin Smyrna.

Related species of Ficus.

The famous and useful "Sycamore fig" of the Orient (Ficus sycomorus) produces fruit in racemes on the older branches. It is too tender for outdoor culture in America. (See page 1234.) The beautiful peepul tree of India is the sacred fig (Ficus religiosa) of the Brahmans and Buddhists, and it is now found in many private collections in southern California. Ficus elastica, the India rubber tree, is often seen in the warmer parts of California. In 1914 a tree of F. elastica fruited heavily at Niles and the children seemed to like the figs. The true banyan fig has not yet been successfully grown in the state, but ought to be tested. In the American tropics many interesting kinds of Ficus may be expected. Charles H. Shinn.

The above text is from the Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture. It may be out of date, but still contains valuable and interesting information which can be incorporated into the remainder of the article. Click on "Collapse" in the header to hide this text.


Location: Figs require full sun all day to ripen palatable fruits. Trees become enormous, and will shade out anything growing beneath. Repeated pruning to control size causes loss of crop. The succulent trunk and branches are unusually sensitive to heat and sun damage, and should be whitewashed if particularly exposed. Roots are greedy, traveling far beyond the tree canopy. Figs are not a fruit tree for small places. The fine roots that invade garden beds, however, may be cut without loss to the tree. In areas with short (less than 120 days between frosts), cool summers, espalier trees against a south-facing, light-colored wall to take advantage of the reflected heat. In coastal climates, grow in the warmest location, against a sunny wall or in a heat trap. For container grown plants, replace most of the soil in the tub every three years and keep the sides of the tub shaded to prevent overheating in sunlight.

Irrigation: Young fig tees should be watered regularly until fully established. In dry western climates, water mature trees deeply at least every one or two weeks. Desert gardeners may have to water more frequently. Mulch the soil around the trees to conserve moisture. If a tree is not getting enough water, the leaves will turn yellow and drop. Also, drought-stressed trees will not produce fruit and are more susceptible to nematode damage. Recently planted trees are particularly susceptible to water deficits, often runt out, and die.

Pruning: Fig trees are productive with or without heavy pruning. It is essential only during the initial years. Trees should be trained according to use of fruit, such as a low crown for fresh-market figs. Since the crop is borne on terminals of previous year's wood, once the tree form is established, avoid heavy winter pruning, which causes loss of the following year's crop. It is better to prune immediately after the main crop is harvested, or with late-ripening cultivars, summer prune half the branches and prune the remainder the following summer. If radical pruning is done, whitewash the entire tree.

Fertilization: Regular fertilizing of figs is usually necessary only for potted trees or when they are grown on sands. Excess nitrogen encourages rank growth at the expense of fruit production, and the fruit that is produced often ripens improperly, if at all. As a general rule, fertilize fig trees if the branches grew less than a foot the previous year. Apply a total of 1/2 - 1 pound of actual nitrogen, divided into three or four applications beginning in late winter or early spring and ending in July.

Frost Protection: In borderline climates, figs can be grown out of doors if they are given frost protection. Brown Turkey, Brunswick and Blue Celeste cultivars are some of the best choices. Plant against a wall or structure which provides some heat by radiation. Or grow as a bush, pruning the trunk to near ground level at the end of the second year. Allow several stems to replace the trunk, and grow as you would a lilac. For further protection, erect a frame over the plant, covering and surrounding it with heavy carpet in winter. Keep the roots as dry as possible during winter, raising a berm to exclude melting snows during thaws. In northern climates, the fig is best grown as a tub or pot plant that can be brought into a warm location in winter and taken out again in spring. Dormant buds are more susceptible to freezing than wood. Freezing may also create a trunk without live buds; regrowth is possible only from roots.

Harvest: Figs must be allowed to ripen fully on the tree before they are picked. They will not ripen if picked when immature. A ripe fruit will be slightly soft and starting to bend at the neck. Harvest the fruit gently to avoid bruising. Fresh figs do not keep well and can be stored in the refrigerator for only 2 - 3 days. Some fig varieties are delicious when dried. They take 4 - 5 days to dry in the sun and 10 -12 hours in a dehydrator. Dried figs can be stored for six to eight months.


Fig plants are usual propagated by cuttings. Select foot-long pieces of dormant wood, less than 1 inch diameter, with two-year-old wood at base. One-year twigs with a heel of two-year branch at the base may also be used. Dip the cuttings in a rooting hormone and allow them to callus one week in a moist place at 50-60° F. Summer cuttings may also be made, but they do best if defoliated and winterized in a refrigeration for 2-3 weeks before potting. Leafy shoots require a mist bed. Particularly rare cultivars may be propagated on rootstocks, or older trees, topworked by whip, cleft or crown grafting, or chip or patch budding. Rooted cuttings should be planted in 22 to 30 feet squares, depending upon the capacity of the soil and the ultimate size of the tree. Keep roots moist until planted. Never transplant or disturb a young tree while it is starting new growth in spring, as this is likely to to kill it. Cut the tree back to 2 ft high upon planting and whitewash the trunk.

Pests and diseases

Fig tree roots are a favorite food of gophers, who can easily kill a large plant. One passive method of control is to plant the tree in a large aviary wire basket. Deer are not particularly attracted to figs, but birds can cause a lot of damage to the fruit. Nematodes, particularly in sandy soils, attack roots, forming galls and stunting the trees. Mitadulid and Carpophilus dried fruit beetles can enter ripening fruit through the eye and cause damage by introducing fungi and rots. They frequently breed in fallen citrus fruits. Keep a clean orchard by destroy fallen fruits and do not grow near citrus trees. Euryphid mites cause little damage but are carriers of mosaic virus from infected to clean trees.

Mosaic virus, formerly considered benign, probably causes crop reduction. Symptoms resemble potassium deficiency--leaves are marbled with yellow spots, and the veins are light colored. Symptoms are often not apparent until the tree is older or when it becomes heat or water-stressed. Do not purchase infected trees and isolate those which show symptoms. Botrytis causes a blast of branch terminals, which dry out and turn charcoal-like. The attack usually starts from half-grown fruits damaged by the first frost of winter, then enters the main stem as a reddish expanding necrotic zone. The infection is generally self-controlling and stops in the spring. It can be prevented by removing mummies and frost damaged fruits as soon as they are observed. Fig canker is a bacterium which enters the trunk at damaged zones, causing necrosis and girdling and loss of branches. It usually starts at sunburned areas, so it is important to keep exposed branches whitewashed. Rhyzopus smut attacks ripened fruits on the tree, causing charcoal black coating inside the fruit, and is worst on cultivars with large, open eyes. Most ripe fruit losses are from Endosepsis (Fusarium) and Aspergillus rot which is introduced by insects, even pollinating wasps. The fruit appears to burst, or a ropy, mucus-like exudate drains from the eye, rendering the fruit are inedible. The best control is to destroy all crop for one year, apply diazinon granules beneath trees to eliminate insect vectors, and destroy adjacent wild trees. Penicillium fungus will attack dried fruits in storage but can be controlled by keeping them dry, or sulfuring before storage.


  • Adriatic (Fragola, Strawberry Fig, Verdone, White Adriatic) - Origin central Italy, Small to medium, skin greenish, flesh strawberry colored. Good, all-purpose fig. Light breba crop. Large vigorous tree leafs out early; subject to frost damage. Prune to force new growth.
  • Black Mission (Beers Black, Franciscan, Mission) - Origin Balearic Islands. Fruits all-over black purple, elongated, Flesh watermelon to pink, fairly good taste. Easily dried at home. Single best all-round variety for south, north, coast, interior. Brebas prolific, fairly rich. Tree very large, plant at maximum spacing. Do not prune after tree reaches maturity. Commences growth midseason.
  • Blanche (Italian Honey fig, Lattarula, Lemon, White Marseille) - Medium to large, skin yellowish green, flesh white to amber, very sweet, lemon flavor. Light breba crop. Valuable in short-season, cool-summer areas. Slow growing, dense, hardy tree.
  • Brown Turkey (Aubique Noire, Negro Largo, San Piero - Origin Provence. Medium, skin is purplish brown, flesh pinkish amber. Good flavor. Best when fresh. Light breba crop. Small, hardy, vigorous tree. Prune severely for heaviest main crop. Does best in southern California.
  • Celeste (Blue Celeste, Honey Fig, Malta, Sugar, Violette) - Small to medium, skin is light violet to violet-brown, flesh reddish amber. Very sweet, usually dried. Light breba crop. Tightly closed eye, good for Southeast. Small, productive, hardy.
  • Conadria - Origin Ira Condit, Riverside 1956. First artificial hybrid fig. Fruit pale green, medium, flesh strawberry red. Mildly sweet. Good fresh, excellent dried. More productive than Adriatic but of lesser quality. Light breba crop. Tree vigorous, tends to excessive growth under irrigation, best in hot climates.
  • Croisic (Cordelia, Gillette, St. John) - Only edible caprifig. Fruits very early, only brebas are useful. Fruits pale yellow, small, pulp nearly white, without a lot of character. Tree low, dense, spreading. . For north coast and Pacific Northwest.
  • Desert King (Charlie, King) - Origin Madera, Calif. 1920. San Pedro type. Large, skin is deep green, minutely spotted white, pulp strawberry red. Sweet, delicious fresh or dried. Commonly matures good fruit without caprification near the coast. Tree highly vigorous. Hardy, best adapted to to cool areas such as the Pacific Northwest.
  • Excel - Origin W.B. Storey, Riverside, 1975. Large, skin is yellow, flesh light amber. Fruits practically neckless, blocky. Very sweet. Excellent, all-purpose fig. Light breba crop. Similar to Kadota but more productive. Tree vigorous, even rank. Does well in most parts of California.
  • Flanders - Origin I.J. Condit, Riverside, 1965. Seedling of White Adriatic. Medium, long neck, skin is brownish yellow with violet stripes, flesh amber. Strong, fine flavor. Excellent all-purpose fruit. Good breba crop. Ripens late. Tree vigorous but requires no great pruning. For south coastal California, San Joaquin Valley.
  • Judy - Origin Leonard Jessen, Pasadena, 1986. Probable seedling of California Brown Turkey. Large and broad, fruit is brown to black, pulp pink.
  • Kadota (Dottato, Florentine, White Kadota) - Medium, skin is yellowish green, flesh amber, tinged pink at center. Flavor rich. Resists souring. Little or no breba crop. Tree upright, requires annual pruning to slow growth. Requires hot, dry climate for best quality.
  • Len - Origin Leonard Jessen, Pasadena, 1984. Seedling of Black Mission. Fruit smaller than Mission, black, pulp pink, quite sweet.
  • Osborn's Prolific (Arachipel, Neveralla) - Medium to large, skin is dark reddish brown, flesh amber, often tinged pink. Very sweet, best fresh. Light breba crop. Tree upright, bare, will grow in shade. Ripens late. Only for north coast, Pacific Northwest. Poor in warm climates.
  • Panachee (Striped Tiger, Tiger) - Small to medium, skin is greenish yellow with dark green strips, flesh strawberry, dry but sweet. Best fresh. No breba crop. Requires long, warm growing season. Ripens late.
  • Tena - Origin W.B. Storey, Riverside, 1975. Small, skin is light green,flesh amber. Fine flavor. Good fresh or dried. Good breba crop. Bears heavily. Tree strong, dense. For coastal California and interior south.
  • Genoa (White Genoa) - Medium, skin is greenish yellow to white, flesh yellow-amber. Sweet, good fresh or dried. Light breba and main crops.Tree upright, requires constant annual pruning. Best adapted to cooler regions of the West. Very late in northern California, continuing to ripen even after first frosts.
  • Ventura - Large, skin is green, flesh deep red, long neck. Excellent flavor. Good fresh or dried. Good breba crop. Ripens late but matures well in cool areas. Compact tree.
  • Verte (Green Ischia) - Small, skin is greenish yellow, flesh strawberry. Excellent fresh or dried. Good breba crop. Small tree. Recommended for short-summer climates.


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