I never thought I’d spend four thousand dollars, two weeks, be attacked by a swarm of wasps, nearly tread on two snakes and walk countless kilometres in a remote rainforest in 35 degree heat, just to find a plant! Well I did, and man was it a relief when I finally found my first Ficus subnervosa!
Subnervosa grows in Bamaga Scrub in Cape York (the most northerly part of Australia), as well as New Guinea. It’s a hangover from a time when Australia and New Guinea where one continent, either as Australia broke away from Gondwana or from one of the ice ages since when the oceans were much lower than today.
It’s foliage is unlike any other Australian fig, juvenile leaves looking almost like holly. The trunk and general appearance are similar to Ficus fraseri (unlike fraseri, it’s not a sandpaper fig). One main trunk with non distinct hard grey bark, that looks just like all the other species growing around it, making it hard to spot! The only reason I was able to find a few trees was because I stumbled across some fruit on the ground. At first glance I thought the fruit was from a Lilly Pilly, but being desperate after days of walking I picked up some of the fruit, broke it open and nearly cried when I realised it was a fig!
The fruit too is odd, I could be wrong but I thought the texture and taste was like a Lilly Pilly, making me wonder if it has evolved to mimic Lilly Pilly fruit to appeal to the same animals?
Ficus subnervosa has been available for many years from Yuruga Nursery, it’s probably not a regular line, you may need to order it. I’ve also seen it marketed as an indoor plant under the name of ‘Yuletide’. I’ve had four plants from Yuruga for over ten years, they have fruited, the fruit doesn’t get pollinated in Sydney, staying hard and green. They’re a fairly tough pot plant and respond well to pruning. Not a true deciduous tree, they will drop their leaves if exposed to cold or if they become too dry.
Easily grown from cutting and from seed, several hundred plants grew from a few collected fruit.