Ficus rubiginosa hybrid?

Possible Rubiginosa Cross

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.