Gardening Tips and Tricks : The History of the Ficus Tree
The genus of the Ficus contains 800 species and 2000 varieties of trees, shrubs and vines. These plants are grown in many different climates including the tropical forest, the Middle East, Africa and the United States. With the wide array of ficus trees available, you can actually find them almost any place in the world.
The Common Fig tree is a ficus variety and can be traced back to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, mentioned in Genesis. There are fig trees found and excavated outside of Jericho that are 11,400 years old! This find is the oldest cultivated crop of fig trees found to date. The ficus genus has existed for 60-80 million years! The Banyan species of ficus seems to replant itself as it grows, dips itself down into the earth, and shoots off new growth.
The fig and ficus trees have been produced for food, religious and practical uses. The fig fruit was part of the food found in the Promised Land – it was referred to as “honey”. Butterflies feed on figs, as do several other species. The soft wood of the ficus was used in Ancient Egypt to produce the caskets that mummies were later found in. Uganda used the bark of the ficus to make paper similar to the Egyptian papyrus. The fig/ficus is held sacred by Buddha; and in Islam and East Asia. The World Tree in the Hindu religion is of the Ashvastha species. As you can see – the ficus is quite common throughout history and this is just the top of the iceberg! Is it any wonder that the ficus, therefore, is considered a keystone species; meaning that many of the living rely on it for their existence?
The fig varieties come in two forms: the edible and inedible. The Common Fig is inedible, as the fruit is of the male and female variety. Only the female fruit is edible. The fig is formed as compressed, minute male and female flowers grown inside the “pod” and is considered an inside-out flower. Only one species of wasp per species of ficus can pollinate. For that reason, some ficus varieties never bloom because the tree outnumbers the wasp.
The ficus can be a bit hard to grow. The genus requires temperatures of 60-72º; only moist, not wet soil, and bright or filtered light. They can be an insidious plant, with high leaf-litter in season. With these varieties being this picky and hard to upkeep, they are still a good indoor plant.
The ficus works well indoors potted and with southern exposure. If you use a live one, leaves will still fall. Lifelike artificial Banyan, Rubber and Fig trees are available for purchase.
The artificial ficus varietals can be produced with natural wood trunks and polyester or silk leaves. The foliage can seem real enough that you may find someone watering your (fake) office plant! There is a wide range of sizes available for your artificial ficus. These will live forever in your office corner and fit well inside cubicles. There’s no mess and no fuss.
Alive or artificial, the ficus can be a nice addition to your home or work place.