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Ficus sur Forsskål 1775


Broom-cluster Fig


(Life; Embryophyta (plants); Angiospermae (flowering plants); Eudicotyledons; Order: Rosales; Family: Moraceae; Genus: Ficus; Subgenus: Sycomorus; Section: Sycomorus)

Apocrypta guineensis ovipositing through fig wall (Pretoria).

Ficus sur

Geocarpic figs (Ithala, Kwazulu-Natal).Ficus sur

B-phase figs (Pretoria).


C-phase figs (Cape Town).


South Africa. Photographs © Simon van Noort (Iziko Museums of South Africa).







Ivory Coast. Photographs © Jean-Yves Rasplus (INRA).

Angola, Mt. Tchivira. Photographs © Nigel Barker (Rhodes University).

Angola, Tchivingura gorge. Photographs © Nigel Barker (Rhodes University).


Umalila, Southern Highlands, Tanzania. Photograph © Paul Latham (UK).


Ficus sur Distribution

From South Africa to Senegal and the Arabian Peninsula.


Pollinator: Ceratosolen capensis (E & S Africa); Ceratsolen flabellatus and Ceratosolen silvestrianus (W Africa).


In woodland and moist forests.


Birds, bats and monkeys feed on the ripe figs facilitating seed dispersal.


Figs of Ficus sur along with various other fig species comprise the staple diet of Chimpanzee in Kibale National Park (Uganda).


The larval stages of a variety of insects feed on the leaves or figs of Ficus sur including caterpillars of butterflies and moths, some of which have developed remarkable strategies to overcome the sticky latex contained in the leaves. Other insect larvae bore into the branches feeding on the wood or suck sap from leaves or figs.

Latex sabotage by Asota speciosa

Asota speciosa (latex sabotage by the Speciose Tiger moth caterpillar)

Myrina dermaptera (Lesser fig-tree bue, Scarce fig-tree blue)

Myrina dermaptera (Lesser fig-tree blue, Scarce fig-tree blue)

Myrina silenus (Common fig-tree blue)

Myrina silenus (Common fig-tree blue)


Beetle larvae of the Fig tree borer beetle Phyrneta spinator (Coleoptera) bore into the branches and trunks often targeting water stressed, damaged or older trees

Leaf Hopper bugs Hilda patruelis (Hemiptera) suck the sap  from figs and are tended for honeydew by pugnaceous ants Anoplolepis custodiens or Pheidole megacephala. By patrolling figs with bugs the ants reduce the impact of parasitoid fig wasps (which oviposit through the fig wall) on pollinator larvae and hence increase the reproductive fitness of the tree.


(after C.C. Berg in Berg & Wiebes, 1992):

Biological form

Tree up to 30 m tall, terrestrial


shape & colour

elliptic to ovate, chartaceous to coriaceous, apex acuminate to acute, base subacute to (sub)cordate, both surfaces glabrous to puberulous



4-20 x 3-13 cm


lateral veins

5-9 pairs, basal pair branched reaching margin below the middle of the lamina



1.5-9 cm long, puberulous


1-3.5 cm long, pubescent, caducous



on up to 1.5 m (mostly 50 cm) long branchlets on the main branches and trunk



globose, Ø 2-4 cm (fresh), glabrous rarely (sub)puberulous



0.5-2 cm long


basal bracts

2-3 mm long


Berg, C.C. 1986. The Ficus species (Moraceae) of Madagascar and the Comore Islands. Bulletin du Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle d’Histoire Naturelle. Paris (4), 8: 17-55.

Berg, C.C. 1988. New taxa and combinations in Ficus (Moraceae) in Africa. Kew Bulletin 43: 77- 97.

Berg, C.C. 1989. Moraceae. In: R.M. Polhill (ed.) Flora of Tropical East Africa. A.A. Balkema, Rotterdam.

Berg, C.C. 1990. Distribution of African taxa of Ficus (Moraccae). [Proc. 12th AETFAT]. Mitt. inst. Allg. Bot. Hamburg 23: 401-405.

Berg, C.C. 1990. Annotated check-list of the Ficus species of the African floristic region, with special reference and a key to the taxa of southern Africa. Kirkia, 13: 253-291.

Berg, C.C. 1991. Moraceae. In: E. Launert & G.Y. Pope (eds) Flora Zambesiaca 9, 6. Natural History Museum, London.

Berg, C.C. & Hijman, M.E.E. 1989. Chapter 11. Ficus. Flora of Tropical East Africa (ed. R.M. Polhill). 43-86. A.A. Balkema, Rotterdam.

Berg, C.C., Hijman, M.E.E. & Weerdenburg, J.C.A. 1984. Moracées (incl. Cécropiacées). Flore du Gabon 26: 1276.

Berg, C.C., Hijman, M.E.E. & Weerdenburg, J.C.A. 1985. Moracées (incl. Cécropiacées). Flore du Cameroun 28: 1298.

Berg, C.C. & Wiebes, J.T. 1992. African fig trees and fig wasps. Koninklijke Nederlandse Akademie van Wetenschappen. Amsterdam, 1-298 pp.

Burrows, J. & Burrows, S. 2003. Figs of southern & south-central Africa. Umdaus Press, Hatfield. 379 pp.


PlantZAfrica (SANBI web site).


Photographs and distribution map © Simon van Noort (Iziko Museums of South Africa) or © Jean-Yves Rasplus (INRA) or Nigel Barker (Rhodes University) or © Paul Latham (UK).. Insect images © Hamish Robertson (Iziko Museums of South Africa). Butterfly images © Steve Woodhall.

Ficus sycomorus sycomorus Linnaeus

Web authors Simon van Noort (Iziko South African Museum)

and Jean-Yves Rasplus (INRA, France)

Copyright 2004-2015 Iziko Museums of South Africa

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