Roxbury Fig

Common name(s): Elephant Ear Fig, Roxbury Fig, Eared Strangler Fig

Scientific name: Ficus auriculata

Plant family: MORACEAE

Origin: Asia Minor. Dispersed by explorers to India and Southeast Asia.

Description: Tropical, medium wide spreading plant. Grows up to 15 feet and needs area of about same wide if in ground. Leaves are broad, thick. Flowers in spring. Along the stem and small branches may appear buds. These will enlarge and have inside an area where the flowers are located. The flowers are said to be “cryptic” hiding inside the bud. May make multiple stems. Ideal as a large potted plant in garden. Maintain in shrub form to enjoy the fruit.

Growing Conditions: Will grow from sun to light shade. Soil should be lightly moist, rich organic material and well drained. If planted outside give it space as it has a habit of spreading. Leaves may fall due to drought conditions. New leaves have a copper color then turning green.

Wildlife: Attracts specific insect for fertilization. Fruit may be used by wildlife.

Relation to Nehrling Gardens: Donated by Leu Botanical Gardens and planted in 2021.

Location in Gardens: G3

Additional Information: The Fig was one of the earliest fruit trees to be cultivated and dispersed by explorers into new lands. It was called the “Poor Man’s Fruit” because of the high quality of minerals and food energy. This species is named after Sir William Roxburgh known for extensive work in India. Of all the plants on Earth the Figs have one of the most unusual life cycles. In the spring, small buds are formed along the stems. These buds have a small hole in the top with flowers inside. A very small female wasp in the Agaonidae family will enter each bud, carrying pollen from another plant, pollinate and lay eggs for future generations. Eggs that are male wingless wasps remain inside to fertilize future females. Males die inside the developing fruit and decompose. The fruit is formed from many flowers. This is a type of co-evolution between an unusual plant and small insect.