Atherton Rock Fig, a New Species?

Atherton Rock Fig Foliage

Atherton Rock Fig, a New Species?

Around Atherton in Queensland there’s a rock fig that doesn’t quite fit into any of the current species. I believe it currently falls under Ficus rubiginosa f. glabrescens, a species that grows from northern New South Wales to Cape York, but to me it is vastly different to the rubiginosa of Sydney.

Forma glabrescens is meant to be a hairless form of rubiginosa, and these Atherton rock figs are hairless. They also look a fair bit like rubiginosa but with longer larger petioles, leaves and fruit. The plants I’ve seen were all growing on rocks – except one that’s growing in a garden bed in the car park of Yuruga Nursery – which I think is the same plant.

They’re also a bit like another rock fig, Ficus platypoda in form and habit, which makes me think that this plant doesn’t grow as a strangler – like true rubiginosa can.

New seasons shots are thick and quickly turn woody. Only the tips of the branches tend to hold leaves. For every new leaf that grows, there are two fruit in it’s axil and in a season there may 20 or more fruit on one new shoot.

Atherton Rock Fig Fuit

Young fruit have two translucent bracts that interlook to cover the developing fruit. One bract has a long point that fits into the other bract. The fruit when mature are globose to 3cm, red purple in colour with spots. The peduncle is long and thin maybe 1cm by 4mm, slightly hairy. The fruit is fleshy and might be tasty, I didn’t think to try it.

Atherton Rock Fig Leaf
Atherton Rock Fig Leaves, 24cm from tip to tip.

 

Leaves get to about 20 to 30 cm with long strong petioles. Almost the size of a F. macrohpylla or F. pleurocarpa leaf. Hairless above and below. As new leaves form so too does the fruit. Both fruit and the new leaf are enclosed in the leaf’s sheathing bracts, causing one side at the base to have a pregnant bulge where the new fruit are forming.

Atherton Rock Fig Branches

 

The tree’s I saw tend to be small, less than 4m tall, with the odd tree reaching about 6m. The cultivated plant at Yuruga was much stronger, healthier and looked like it would grow much bigger than the plants in the wild. It also held more than just the current seasons leaves.

Additional Notes: 7-4-15

The wikipedia link for Ficus platypoda shows an image that is not Ficus platypoda but appears to be the same plant as mentioned in this blog with mature fruit. The gps co-ordinates for the image show it was taken in Eastern Queensland, possibly in Mount Etna Caves National Park. True Ficus platypoda grows in Western Australia and possibly through to NT.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ficus_platypoda#/media/File:Ficus_platypoda_fruit.jpg

More pictures of this plant again labelled as platypoda by “tanetahi” on Flickr.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/72793939@N00/3302844447/in/set-72157614251680187