Ficus platypoda has large persistent bracts that cover the mature fruit which is unusual for Australian figs. In most fig species the bracts that cover the immature fruit will fall off early in the fruit’s development, for some reason platypoda plants retain these bracts. It may have something to do with the harsh environment that platypoda grows, the bracts helping to protect the fruit from drying out or hide the fruit from predators for as long as possible.
This year, for the first time, I was able to watch how the bracts and growing fruit interacted with each other.
1. A spike like bud forms. These are normally in pairs in the leaf node. The top 3 or 4 leaf nodes on each branch tip can form pairs of these fruit spikes. The spike is made up of the bracts that will later cover the ripening fruit.
2. The fruit’s stem (peduncle) elongates, the spike grows away from the plants stem.
3. As the fruit stem continues to elongate, the fruit (syconium) starts to swell inside the bracts. The syconium bud was already developing at the base of stage 1. See the image below.
4. The peduncle and syconium continue to grow. The swelling fruit pushes the bracts apart exposing the top of the fruit.
5. As the fruit ages the bracts will dry and may fall off to expose the complete fruit.
An immature fruit spike.
1. The immature peduncle
2. The immature syconium
3. The bracts
A ficus platypoda branch tip showing the pairs of fruit spikes developing in the leaf axils and an almost ripe fruit.