Queensland Ficus tinctoria are actually virgata!

Ficus tinctoria is a little mentioned fig that grows through out Malesia and Australia. The majority of the Australian collections come from the Kimberley region of northern WA though there are 3  from the coast of Queensland between Cairns and Townsville.

 

Ficus tinctoria distribution
Ficus tinctoria distribution

 

These collections struck me as unusual for several reasons. They were collected a fair way down the Queensland coast which is a long way from the PNG populations from which they must surely be related. There are only 3 collections although the area is well explored and the lots of the closely related Ficus virgata  have been found  in the same area.

 

Ficus virgata Cairns to Townsville
Ficus virgata Cairns to Townsville

 

Ficus tinctoria Cairns to Townsville
The 3 Ficus tinctoria collections from between Cairns and Townsville

 

Being unusual collections for their collection site they were assigned as species syntypes making them pretty important specimens! It also means that photographs of the collections are available online at the Jstor website saving me a trip to the Melbourne herbarium. I have seen several of Western Australian Ficus tinctoria and they are different to the eastern species Ficus virgata. The two species co-occur in PNG where they must surely hybridise and many of the tinctoria collections from outside of Australia look nothing like the Australian plants.

 

Leaf vein comparsion
Leaf vein comparison of 2 of the 3 type records, the 3rd collection is a single fruit!

 

When the leaf veins of the Queensland tinctoria collections are compared with those of juvenile virgata leaves, they are almost identical. When compared to a leaf from a Western Australia  tinctoria, they don’t match. The marginal loops of the secondary veins of virgata are much flatter than those of tinctoria and the tertiary veins of the two species create different patterns. The large leaves of the Qld tinctoria collections are likely juvenile virgata leaves being much larger than typical adult foliage.