In December 2015 I planted seed from a Ficus triradiata growing in my backyard. Though thousands of miles from its pollinating wasp, somehow this tree had set ripe fruit. Three months later the 40cm tall seedlings are old enough to start morphological comparisons with their mother.
If I didn’t know better I’d say these seedlings were Ficus rubiginosa and the triradata flowers may well have been fertilised by a rubiginosa. Having a ‘rubiginosa’ like appearance continues to make me think many plants identified as rubiginosa are in fact hybrids.
The plants are in their juvenile stage and this could explain the differences in morphology. The leaves of the seedings have prominent hydathodes – small white spots on the upper surface of the leaf blade. These are common in many species like rubiginosa and the presence or lack of hydathodes is often used as a species delimiter. The mother plant has no hydathodes. My feeling is that hydathodes would persist throughout the plants life and not just as a stage of maturity, though I have no evidence for this. The leaves are also darker in colour, more rounded and glossy than a typical triradiata leaf.
On the underside of the leaves the veins are obviously raised and coloured differently to the rest of the lamina. Two strong basal veins form a ‘v’ shape at the base of the mid rib. Triradata’s veins are flat to the touch, more delicate in structure and blend in with the rest of the leaf surface, like those of obliqua.
- Update: Since writing this I thought I’d actually check my other triradiata plants and it seems they too have hydathodes, at least on the juvenile foliage. This trait alone won’t prove these plants are hybrids.