Ficus glumosa Delile ( = F. sonderi Miq.)
Common names: hairy rock fig, mountain rock fig (Eng.); harige rotsvy, berg-rotsvy (Afr.); umthombe (Xhosa); inkokhokho, umdenda omnyama, umnyaxa (Zulu); inkiwane (Ndebele); inkokhokho, magnyea (Swati); mphaya (N.Sotho); tshikululu (Venda)
SA Tree No: 64
An ideal tree for planting in water scarce areas; it will provide browsing and food to a number of animals, as well as a habitat for a large range of bird species.
Ficus glumosa displays the interesting characteristic of behaving like an evergreen tree in areas where the rainfall is very high and expresses itself as a semi-deciduous tree in arid areas. Ficus glumosa can easily grow up to 15 m high; the crown is roundish and may be open or closed; the branches of the tree tends to grow quite low. The bark is pale grey to yellowish grey and has a smooth to slightly rough texture; it often tends to flake off, but creates a nice decorative look. Hairs cover the branchlets. The older leaves fall to the ground and are responsible for leaving large scars behind. The younger parts of the tree, such as the young leaves, branches and petioles, are covered with golden to greyish hairs, or it may show almost a lack of hairs.
Leaves are simple, oval-shaped to oblong, 50–150 × 20–90 mm, dark green and smooth on the upper surface and lighter green on the lower surface.
Clustered, sessile (without stalks) fruits (figs) are produced in the leaf axils towards the end of the branches from early spring until late summer (August to March). It has been recorded that the fruits of Ficus glumosa trees in northern Namibia are much smaller, less then 10 mm in diameter, than those of the trees growing in southern Africa, from about 8–15 mm in diameter.
According to the Red List of South African Plants, checked on the 2016/10/13, the conservation status of this plant is Least Concern (LC).
Distribution and habitat
Ficus glumosa is quite widely spread; it is found from Tanzania in North Africa to KwaZulu-Natal in southern Africa. It loves to grow along rocky outcrops, cliffs in woodlands and wooded grasslands.
Derivation of name and historical aspects
Ficus is the Latin name for the cultivated fig, and glumosa means ‘glume-like’, referring to the presence of basal bracts on the fruits (a glume is a small, dry membraneous bract typically found in the inflorescences of grasses and sedges).
Ficus is a large genus of about 1 180 species within the plant family Moraceae. It is distributed mostly in tropical and subtropical regions.
The leaves of the tree are eaten by game such as kudu and bushbuck. This tree provides an ideal shelter and a good food supply for a number of bird species.
The bark of the tree is often used for the tanning of leather .The milky latex of the tree is non-toxic and was recorded to treat eye infections in the past. The fruit of the tree is edible, and can be enjoyed fresh.
Growing Ficus glumosa
Ficus glumosa is a fast-growing tree in arid areas and can even grow much faster in areas where a higher rainfall is experienced. This tree does not handle heavy frost well, but it receives quite a lot of credit for coping with the transplanting process.
Dry the seeds before sowing by simply aerating the fruit by placing it on some paper towel. Remove the seeds from the dried fruit and sow them in seedling trays. Prepare the seedling trays by using equal parts of sand and compost to fill up the trays. The next step is to cover the seeds lightly with a layer of sand and water well by keeping the medium moist, but not soaked. Signs of seed germination start from between 10 and 20 days. Seedlings reaching the 3-leaf stage, can be successfully transplanted into bags filled with a mixture of 70% sand and 30% compost.
One can also propagate this tree from cuttings. Take cuttings from semi-hardwood, and make them about 100–150 mm long. Dip the cuttings into a growth hormone to encourage the root development process. A third easy method to propagate this tree is by truncheons. The ideal size of the truncheons is about 100–150 mm in diameter and about 500 mm to 1 m long.
The tree is quite hardy, although the fruit may become infested with insects. For birds and other animals, this is of little or no concern.
- Burrows, J. & Burrows, S. 2003. Figs of southern and south-central Africa. Umdaus Press, Hatfield.
- Coates Palgrave, K. 2002. Trees of southern Africa. Struik, Cape Town.
- Raimondo, D., Von Staden, L., Foden, W., Victor, J.E., Helme, N.A., Turner, R.C., Kamundi, D.A. & Manyama, P.A. 2009. Red List of South African plants. Strelitzia 25. South African National Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria.
- Van Noort, S. 2004. How fig trees are pollinated. Veld & Flora 90: 13–15.
- Van Wyk, B. & Van Wyk, P. 1997. Field guide to the trees of southern Africa. Struik, Cape Town.
- Venter, F. & Venter, J.A. 2012. Making the most of indigenous trees. Briza Publications, Pretoria.
- Von Breitenbach, F. 1990. National list of indigenous trees. Second revised edition. Dendrological Foundation, Pretoria.
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden
Plant Type: Tree
SA Distribution: Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga
Soil type: Sandy, Loam
PH: Acid, Neutral
Aspect: Full Sun
Gardening skill: Easy