Early sexual maturity, from hybrid vigor?

Ficus coronulata

When growing fruit trees from seed you can be in for a painfully long wait before getting your reward. From the many hundreds of fig seedlings I’ve grown, only a handful have reached sexual maturity. This small sample size has shown that sandpaper figs mature the quickest, some setting fruit around year five. While rock and strangler figs take longer to fruit at around their tenth year.

Many of my sandpaper figs have produced fruit within their first year, which didn’t strike me as being odd. It wasn’t until one of my rock fig seedlings produced fruit in its first year that I clicked to the fact that all these plants are (potential) hybrids. This early fruit production seems to be the result of hybrid vigor or ‘Heterosis’.

 

An odd rock fig seedling with barely twenty leaves is already producing fruit!
An odd rock fig seedling with barely twenty leaves is already producing fruit!

 

Heterosis is a strange phenomenon where the offspring of a mating will produce features that surpass those of both the parents. It tends to happen when distantly related individuals are mated, either from different populations, species or even genus. In plants hybrid vigour often displays as faster or larger growth than the parents exhibited. The unusually early sexual maturity of these cross species Ficus seedlings may be the result of hybrid vigor.

 

rock fig hybrid2
The same plant as above showing young fruit spikes similar to those of Ficus platypoda.

 

rock fig hybrid3
The fruit is small at less than 1cm across with a long thin peduncle, a bit like small cerasicarpa or a long stemmed lilliputiana fruit. I’m yet to see if the fruit gets pollinated.