Ficus is one of the most well known tropical plants and this detailed report summarizes the common ficus names, a general description of the ficus genus, geography of the ficus variety, uses and types of artificial ficus.
Additional Ficus Names:
Fig, Ficus Benjamina (Weeping Fig or Benjamin's Fig), Ficus Lyrata (Fiddle-Leaf Fig), Alii, Ficus Elastica (Indian Rubber Plant), Ficus Carica (Common Fig), Ficus Sycamorus (Sycamore Fig), etc...
The genus Ficus belongs to the family Moraceae, and there are around 850 species of trees, shrubs, vines, etc... They are an important food resource for wildlife in the tropics, and in some cultures, they are highly important for places of worship and also for their many practical uses. There is evidence that 2 types of the Fig (Common Fig and Sycamore Fig) were among the first plant species that were deliberately bred for agriculture in areas throughout the Middle East, possibly starting more than 11,000 years ago. If this is true, the cultivation of the Ficus would precede the cultivation of grain by hundreds of years.
The Ficus tree is characterized by it's twisting branches and it's well known fruit. It can grow to heights of 30-60 feet tall in natural conditions, with its dense canopy possibly growing as wide as tall. Glossy leaves and gracefully drooping branches is what characterizes the Ficus Benjamina and the leaves are organized into 3-7 bright green lobes. The Ficus Lyrata has leaves that are variable in shape, but often with a wider bottom and narrow middle, which resembles a fiddle. This particular Ficus tree is unique, as it starts it's life as an epiphyte high on top of another tree, and then sends its roots down to the ground to envelope the trunk of the host tree and slowly strangles it. It can also grow on it's own, as a free-standing tree.
The Ficus Benjamina tree's roots are radical also. The United States Forest Service states that “Roots grow rapidly invading gardens, growing under and lifting sidewalks, patios, and driveways.” They say that this species should be used outdoors as a hedge or clipped screen, as the tree form is much too large for outdoor residential planting. It is the most popular kind of Ficus houseplant though. This is due to it's tolerance of poor growing conditions and rapid growth. It does best in high sunlight, but also survives in moderate shade. It needs more water in the summer months, but just enough to keep it from drying out in the winter. In some cases, it can grow too large indoors, so it may need to be repotted or need drastic pruning. If there are even small changes in light made to it's surroundings, it may drop many of its leaves and replace them, which is its way of adapting to the new light.
Collectively, the Ficus trees are native throughout the tropics and rainforests. Some of the other species of the Ficus grow in other climates like temperate zones. For Fig cultivation, the ideal growing condition would be high summer temperatures. The Mediterranean area is thought to be the best producer of the fruit. A common Ficus tree prefers a dry climate with early spring rain. The perfect temperature for a Ficus tree would be above 55 degrees Fahrenheit, but a mature tree can survive in temperatures up to 113 F and as low as 14 F.
Today, the Ficus' are mostly used for their fruit. The Fig blossom blooms in both the spring and the fall, but only the fruit from the second harvest is consumed. The first harvest Figs are too acidic. The fruit is sweet and juicy when ripe, with a thin and tender skin. The fruit is a key resource for some frugivores, including langurs, capuchin monkeys and fruit bats. In ancient Egypt, the wood off the Fig trees was used to make mummy caskets. Research shows that the Weeping Fig and the Indian Rubber Plant are powerful air-cleaning plants in a NASA Clean Air Study. And, some kinds of Ficus' have been used in herbalism. The uses seem to be endless and today, there are more than two thousand species of the genus Ficus growing in all areas of the world!
One of the very first artificial trees ever made was a silk Ficus tree
. The introduction of the plastic Ficus branch was a historic accomplishment for the silk floral industry. Today, artificial Ficus is the most popular variety of foliage used to build artificial trees and plants. One of the primary reasons fake Ficus branches are so popular is because they are cheap relative to other artificial foliage varieties. In addition, Ficus branches are easy to clean and there are a number of silk plant cleaning videos
and articles on how to clean Ficus trees.
The Ficus leaves have improved dramatically over the years and now are mostly constructed of silk leaves and plastic branch stemming. Ficus varieties include Alii, Benjamina, Hawaiian, Nitida, Weeping and Oriental Ficus and are available in solid green leaves and variegated color. In addition, artificial Ficus trees can be manufactured with lights or without and are available in sizes 6', 7' and larger.