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Published In: Species Plantarum 2: 1059. 1753. (1 May 1753) (Sp. Pl.) Name publication detailView in BotanicusView in Biodiversity Heritage Library

Project Name Data (Last Modified On 9/26/2011)
Acceptance : Accepted
Project data     (Last Modified On 2/16/2012)

1. Ficus carica L., Sp. Pl. 1059 (1753); Boiss., Fl. Orient. 4: 1154 (1879). Type: Described from Europe and Asia; S. W. Turkey, Caria, Herb. Linn. no. 1240.1 (LINN). [Plate 33b]

Common name:

Fig tree; פיקוס התאנה, תאנה


Orchard trees, escaped. Spontaneous populations are common near water coarses and springs descending to the Jordan Rift Valley. Coastal Galilee, Acco Plain, Sharon Plain, Upper and Lower Galilee, Mt. Carmel, Esdraelon Plain, Samaria, Shefela, Judean Mts., Samarian and Judean Deserts, Hula Plain (Dan Valley), Upper and Lower Jordan Valleys, Dead Sea Valley, Golan, Moav, Edom.

Area distribution:

Mediterranean - Irano-Turanian.


Leaf fossils in Pleistocene traventine (spring sediments) were found in En Gedi.

     Ficus carica comprises several varieties considered by some as distinct species. While the fig of cultivated varieties contains only pistilate flowers and is parthenocarpic (thus vegetative propagation is needed), that of wild forms has both pistilate and staminate ones.

     Ficus carica is widely cultivated in several varieties; it produces 2-3 crops during the year, but the main edible crop matures between June and September. It is subspontaneous along river banks and on walls, but probably not all are indigenous but rather escaped.

     The wild variety Ficus carica L. var. caprificus Risso has been observed in several localities: Upper Galilee, Mt. Gilboa, Samaria. Although no longer used in this country for caprification, it may be a remnant of earlier cultures. The oldest  wild figs were found in Egypt, dating 7800-6600 BC. Figs have been cultivated since the Bronze Age and perhaps earlier. Their occurrence in the jungles of the S. Caspian coast and elsewhere in Mediterranean "primary" habitats does not necessarily prove their indigeneity in these sites. On the other hand, there are a series of taxa very close to the cultivated Ficus carica that grow in the Irano-Turanian mountains of Iran (e.g. Ficus johannis, Ficus persica), which may  be regarded as wild (ancestral) forms of the common fig tree. Schweinfurth (Bull. Herb. Boiss. 4, App. 2: 127, 1896) considered Ficus palmata Forssk., Fl. Aeg.-Arab. 179 (1775) as the ancestor of the cultivated fig tree. Modern approach regards the Middle East (Mesopotamia, Egypt) to be the primary center of fig cultivation, probably from the wild types.

     The fig tree is mentioned several times in the Bible under the name  תאנה. Fig cakes were eaten since ancient times. They have been used in folk-medicine. The milky sap, though irritating, has medicinal properties.

     The pollination of figs is very special and reflects symbiotic relationships: It is carried out by a parasitic species-specific wasp (Blastophaga psenes) whose life-cycle is synchronized with that of the tree.


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     Deciduous tree with milky juice, up to 5 (-8) m., with rounded or broadly ovoid crown, sometimes shrubby and branching from base; bark grey, more or less smooth. Buds glabrous. Leaves rather variable, 7-15 cm. across, thick and scabrous, usually orbicular or broadly ovate, 3-5-lobed (rarely part of leaves undivided); lobes with dentate or dentate-crenate margin; petiole 2-5 cm., hairy. Figs usually 2-5 cm. in diam., short-peduncled, pyriform or almost globular, variously coloured, glabrous, fleshy, sweet-tasting and edible. For flowers and fruits see description of genus.

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