Ficus congesta x opposita

Here’s another example of a hybrid arising from two dioecious fig species in my Sydney backyard. The maternal plant (mother) that produced the seed is a Ficus congesta or Red leaf fig that’s commonly encountered in the Australian tropics. The paternal (father) plant that produced the pollen seems to be a Ficus opposita which grows along the east coast of Queensland. From first appearance these species are quite distantly related. F. opposita is a sandpaper fig, while F. congesta has only a slight rough texture to its leaves and a hint of glossiness.


The mother plant, Ficus congest foliage
The mother plant, Ficus congesta.


Ficus congesta branch
The mother plant, Ficus congesta.


Ficus opposita branch
A narrow leaf Ficus opposita. This branch has small unripe fruit, one of the many plants in my backyard that could be the father.


Leaf comparison
Left: Ficus opposita, Middle: Ficus congesta x opposita, Right: Ficus congesta. Note the thick strong veins and rough brown hair of the middle leaf  like those of F. opposita. The over all shape and appearance of the leaf is like that of F. congesta.


Leaf of Ficus congesta x opposita
Leaf of Ficus congesta x opposita, the leaves are large like those of F. congesta, the vein pattern and leaf shine are very congesta like. The plants growth habit is very F. opposita like.


F. congesta can form masses of cauliflorous fruiting stems around the trunk with the fruit staying green and hard before rotting. The trunks of some trees is hidden behind a thick mass of fruiting branches. I don’t know if the fruit ever turns fleshy? Common throughout the rainforest understory and preferring locations with access to water. F. opposita tends to form fruit in pairs towards the ends of its branches that ripen to a fleshy purple-black. It is found in open woodlands, though it too loves water if it can get it.

Both species are placed in the genus “Ficus”, subgenus “Ficus” with F. congesta being grouped with F. hispida and F. septica, while F. opposita is grouped with the sandpaper figs. The two species can occur in sympatry at least in Queensland and there are bound to be naturally formed hybrids. F. congesta is probably able to hybridise with F. hispida and F. septica. This example of crossing with F. opposita suggests that F. congesta could cross with other sandpaper figs as well.


Seedling of a plant that appears to be Ficus congesta  x opposita


This seedling is about 2 years old and in my eyes displays pretty clear intermediate morphology between the two parent species. The pollinating wasps for both species are not found in Sydney leaving the pollinating wasp of F. coronata as the likely mating intermediate.


Left:  unripe Ficus opposita fruit Right: Ficus congesta fruit


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