Monday, 2 January 2012

Figs are what they used to be

Some time ago — I'm not sure when because I don't seem to have written a post about it — an over-ambitious strangler fig got top-heavy and snapped the tree on which it was growing. The tree was entirely rotten, so when host and fig hit the ground, the host crumbled leaving a cage of fig roots and a bit of a mess on the rainforest floor. Strangler figs, being flexible plants, can tolerate a lot of rearrangements in their living conditions, although it can take time to adjust. This one seems to have coped with eviction. After a period of quiescence it is back in business. In about fifteen years, when the strangler roots have thickened up, someone is going to have a five star cubby house.

Strangler fig seeds (Ficus destruens and others) germinate in the canopy. They get there via bird gut, which is a bit like travelling Qantas these days. An epiphyte during its early life, the strangler fig sends down roots that wrap around the host tree. Eventually, the roots completely envelop the host.

Strangler figs are not fussy. They are equally happy with rocks, gutters and Angkor Wat...Just be careful where you string your hammock in a rainforest.

Several fig trees at my place have got as far as becoming buttressed trees.

They are quite scenic, but are nothing compared to the Curtain Fig near Yungaburra and the Cathedral Fig at Danbulla. These are large and impressive trees, despite the images at the links, which just can't capture the sheer volume of figginess. Don't take it from me, go and look for yourselves.


Bernie H said...

Having seen that Curtain Fig at Yungaburra for myself, I can most certainly attest that photos don't do it justice! It is a spectacular sight. It's nice to know that the Strangler Fig is still up to its old tricks! Can't keep a good Fig down.

Snail said...

I was delighted when it sprouted! A few good wet seasons and it's going to be a very sculptural plant.

laurak@forestwalkart said...

wow...those are impressive roots!!

the name, strangler fig...sounds like something from an old stephen king novel...and then your mention of watching where you hang your hammock...def stephen king! ha!