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Ficus burkei (Miq.) Miq. 1867 (Common Wild Fig)


(Life; Embryophyta (plants); Angiospermae (flowering plants); Eudicotyledons; Order: Rosales; Family: Moraceae; Genus: Ficus; Subgenus: Urostigma; Section: Galoglychia; Subsection: Chlamydodorae)

South African images
Tanzanian images



Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, south eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana, South Africa and Swaziland.


Planted widely in many areas of South Africa outside the species' natural distribution in the eastern and northern areas of the country. Commonly used as a shade tree on farms and at roadside layovers or picnic stops. The pollinator Elisabethiella stuckenbergi and some of the non-pollinating wasp species have colonized these planted populations, promoting the further natural spread of Ficus burkei in the more arid western regions and winter rainfall areas of the country.



Pollinator: Elisabethiella stuckenbergi (Grandi), but Alfonsiella brongersmai Wiebes and Alfonsiella longiscapa Joseph have also been recorded.


Savanna woodland and wet or dry forest, up to an altitude of 1800m.


Named after Joseph Burke (1812-1873) a British naturalist who collected the type specimen of Ficus burkei from the Magaliesberg (South Africa) in 1841 while on an expedition with Carl Zeyher (Burrows & Burrows, 2003).

Common names

Common wild fig; Burke's fig; gewone wildevye (Afrikaans); umthombe (Zulu, Xhosa); muumo (Venda); muome (Tswana) (Burrows & Burrows, 2003).

Taxonomic history

This species was previously synonymised with Ficus thonningii by Berg, 1990, but was re-instated as a valid species along with Ficus petersii by Burrows & Burrows, 2003.


Birds, bats, monkeys, baboons, bushpig, warthog and antelope such as bushbuck, nyala, duiker and klipspringer feed on the ripe figs facilitating seed dispersal.

Treron calvus (African green-pigeon, Green pigeon) 

African Green Pigeon feeding on ripe Ficus burkei figs (photograph © Tony Faria)


The larval stages of a variety of insects feed on the leaves or figs of Ficus burkei including caterpillars of butterflies and moths, some of which have developed remarkable strategies to overcome the sticky latex contained in the leaves:

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.


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.

Bouček Z., A. Watsham & J.T. Wiebes, 1981. The fig wasp fauna of the receptacles of Ficus thonningii (Hymenoptera, Chalcidoidea). Tijdschrift Voor Entomologie, 124(5): 149-233.

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


Photographs (except as otherwise credited) and distribution map © Jean-Yves Rasplus (INRA) or © Simon van Noort (Iziko Museums of South Africa) or © Hamish Robertson (Iziko Museums). Butterfly images © Steve Woodhall.

Ficus burtt-davyi Hutch.

Web authors Simon van Noort (Iziko South African Museum)

and Jean-Yves Rasplus (INRA, France)

Copyright 2004-2016 Iziko Museums of South Africa

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