Common Name: Morton Bay Fig, Australian Banyan.
Etymology: Ficus: Latin meaning fig tree. macrophylla: with large leaves.
Origin: Naturally occurring from Illawarra region of NSW to Far North Queensland, Australia and Lord Howe Island.
Description: Huge banyan tree usually about 30m high with similar spread but individuals can get up to 60m often with large buttress roots. In its natural habitat it begins life as a strangler, starting as a seedling high in the branches of other trees living as an epiphite accumulating debris until roots reach the ground. At this stage roots thicken dramatically strangling host tree.
Foliage: Ovate to elliptical to 25cm. Glossy green with rusty underside.
Bark/Trunk: Smooth grey and the trunk eventually forms buttress roots and aerial roots from the lower branches.
Flowers: Unusual flowering habit as it flowers within fruit and is pollinated only by fig wasps that can only reproduce inside fig flowers. Monoecious
Fruit: Orange turning brown or purple with white spots, globular and fleshy , 18-25 mm across, borne singly on thick axillary stalks 8-25mm long, fruit is edible when ripe any time of year.
Growth Requirements: Prefers well drained fertile soil but will tolerate most types of soil. Tree is considered to be sub-tropical to tropical but will grow successfully in much cooler climates with moderate winters and minimal frosts (tree can tolerate light frost). Tree is also tolerant of virtually direct coastal conditions and salt laden winds.
Uses: Beautiful specimen tree or shade tree (although only suited to acreage estates or Parks as roots are highly invasive and destructive). Suitable for coastal conditions, . More traditional uses by the Australian Aboriginal people were to eat the figs when ripe and soft or to use them as a paste (these figs are not as nice as the ones we find in the shops but are edible and a source of potassium, calcium, magnesium and iron). They also used the inner bark for clothing , bags, fishing nets and waterproofing for dugout canoes. The milky sap was also used for treating infections and wounds (although, paradoxically, was also found to be skin irritant).
Propagation: by seed which usually germinate well without any pretreatment or by cuttings.
Sources of information:
- Australian Trees by Leonard Cronin.
- Own notes.
- Own photos.