Ficus rubiginosa hybrid?

Located in Macksville, half way between Sydney and Brisbane, is a possible Ficus rubiginosa cross. It seems to have grown naturally next to the last house heading north along the Pacific Highway.

 

Rubiginosa cross location
Possible rubiginosa cross located just north of Macksville.

 

The overall habit of this tree is very much rubiginosa like. The look of the trunk, the branch structure, even the leaves have the typical dirty brown downy hair on their underside. The thing that made me think this was a hybrid was its overly large fruit and foliage.

 

Rubiginosa cross macksville
Possible rubiginosa cross Macksville, NSW.

 

Possible Rubiginosa Cross
The large leaf of this possible rubiginosa hybrid, similar in size to Ficus macrophylla.

 

I was in the area looking for Ficus watkinsiana and initially thought this tree might be a cross between rubiginosa and watkinsiana. However, Ficus watkinsiana is uncommon, maybe non-existent in Macksville, being more commonly found to the north around the Byron Bay area. However Ficus macrophylla grows nearby and I now wonder if this plant might be part macrophylla.

 

Comparison of rubiginosa, the plant and a watkinsiana fruit
Comparison of fruit from left, a ‘typical’ rubiginosa, middle this possible hybrid and right watkinsiana.

 

Rubiginosa occurs around the area, there’s a few large specimens growing along the river just to the north of the town. These trees are ‘typical’ rubiginosa, not displaying the large fruit or foliage of this tree.

Like rubiginosa, macrohpylla has brown hair and obviously raised veins on the underside of it’s foliage. Watkinsiana has hairless leaves and veins that are flat and thin. Both watkinsiana and macrophylla have large leaves with an acute tip, long petioles and large fruit similar to this rubiginosa.

 

rubiginosa hybrid leaf comparison
Left, a watkinsiana leaf, Middle a leaf from this possible rubiginosa cross and Right a ‘typical’ rubiginosa leaf. Note the venation of this possible hybrid is more like that of macrohylla which isn’t pictured here. This plant also had more ‘acute’ leaf tips. ‘Typical’ rubiginosa leaf tips are often obtuse/rounded as seen in the picture above right.

 

The fruit of this tree matured purple with a small nipple and green dots, very similar to that of watkinsiana, however shrink down the fruit and it’s not that different to a ‘typical’ rubiginosa fruit, maybe more elongated. Both watkinsiana and macrophylla have long peduncles, this plants were short, more in scale with watkinsiana than macrophylla.

It seems possible that either macrophylla or watkinsiana could have crossed with a local rubiginosa resulting in this individual. I feel this trees large leaves and fruit are out of line with the natural variation of this species. I also feel that many trees that don’t fit with the ‘typical’ form of rubiginosa are lumped into the species for a lack of a better name. Many of these trees are probably intermediate forms or as in this case, possible hybrids.

 

 

 

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6 Replies to “Ficus rubiginosa hybrid?”

  1. I’m very surprised that exists so many hybrid Ficus. I knew about Ficus carica complex hibrids ( with F.palmata and F.afghanistanica or johannis), and F.pumila x carica (different section hybrid).
    Why nobody try to artificially hibridize fig trees? Hand pollination of figs isn’t so hard, and is commonly practiced, also by amateur growers.
    You have just to pick syconia with pollen well formed, take the pollen and insert it in the ostiole of a receptive syconia with a thin object.
    It would be interesting to create new hybrids, specially with common fig, hardy and tropical looking.
    Why not?
    I don’t have the possibility to have tropical figs for make hybrids, otherwise i would try; in Sardinia, tropical figs grow almost only near the coast, in Cagliari there are huge specimens, but where i live is too cold.

    Congratulations for the site, it’s very rich of useful informations.

  2. Hi Claude,

    Thanks for the comment!

    I don’t have enough evidence to definitely say that any of the plants I have written about are true hybrids. Many of the samples were handed into an Australian fig expert, the response being that there are no hybrid Australian figs.

    I however disagree. From what I’ve seen it looks like all the endemic Australian figs have only recently evolved and haven’t yet developed true sexual isolation.

    As for your question on “why don’t people cross figs manually?”, I believe it is done in fig farming. There’s a good chance that many of the commonly grown fruiting figs have been crossed in the past. Farmers have known about crossing for a long time and figs are possibly the oldest of the cultivated fruits so it would make sense that it’s been done, possibly many times.

    To cross Australian figs is probably a bit hardier. I’ve thought about it a lot, just too lazy to try. If I could manually cross plants in a reproducible way, it would prove that it could happen naturally.

    First you need to prevent the fruit from being pollinated, covering with a breathable plastic bag is probably enough. Then you need the fruit to be receptive. I’m not sure how to tell when the fruit is ready to accept pollen.

    A lot of fig fruit when not exposed to a pollinator will stay hard, some like wood. So there’s no chance of manually getting pollen in through the ostiole. You could possibly drill into the fruit, but my guess is that the flowers would be so closely packed that they wouldn’t accept the pollen, even if you did get it in the right spot.

    You also need to have two different species in fruit at the same time. One that is receptive and at the beginning of it’s development and the other species where the pollen is being released. Not impossible, just a lot of luck.

  3. Hello Brendan,
    thanks for the answer.
    Today i tried to pollinate 3 figs with the pollen of a few syconia of F.macrocarpa.
    I’ve cut in half the syconia and i made them dry, then i collected the pollen (very little, to be honest).
    I tried to insert the pollen into the syconium trough an hole in the ostiole, with a toothpick. Who knows it will work…
    I also took some cuttings of macrocarpa, it’s easy to root?
    Thanks for the info.

  4. Hi Claude,

    I’m guessing this species of fig doesn’t set ripe fruit normally where you live? I’d be interested to hear the results.

    As for ‘macrocarpa’, I’m guessing you mean microcarpa or macrophylla? Microcarpa is very easy to grow from cutting, macrophylla is a bit hardier but still fairly easy. Do it during the hottest time of the year, keep them in a warm position and kept slightly moist and you should get a good percentage set root.

  5. Hi Brendan, excuse me for the lapsus, actually the species is macrophylla, my error.
    These species don’t set ripe fruits here because of the absence of the specifical pollinator, autopollination it’s impossible (?)i think, maybe they can develop a few apomictic seeds, i’ve seen some seedlings of microcarpa near big trees.
    In this case i took pollen from a macrocarpa and fertilized carica syconia. The inverse could be more easy, due to the high pollen production of male carica (if i have mature tropical fruting figs). With dioecious or gynodioecious species, like carica, it’s more simple.
    ps: sorry for my poor english!

  6. Hi Again,

    I highly doubt that macrophylla could pollinate carica, but no harm in trying! My guess is if any of the Australian figs could pollinate carica it would be one of the sand paper figs. I’d also be very surprised if monoecious plants could pollinate (gyno)dioecious plants. I have come across pictures of plants that are apparently carica hybrids but they all seem to be from dioecious spp. Let me know how you go!

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