A species native to southwest Asia and the Mediterranean, the ficus genus contains over 800 species. Ficus are famed for bearing fig-like substances (which is why many species are simply called fig trees) and other bush foods important to their habitats.
Ficus plants can come in all shapes and sizes, from small shrubs to giant trees, and all species are distinctive due to their tendency to have aerial roots, as well as the fruits they produce.
Many ficus plants are essential in tropical ecosystems since figs are the source of many frugivores such as fruit bats and capuchin monkeys. But why do they hold so much importance to human life?
The ficus religiosa (or, Sacred Fig) is a species native to India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Indochina and is regarded as sacred among the believers of Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism.
It is said that Buddhism’s most famous teacher, Gautama Buddha, sat at the foot of The Bodhi Tree, of the ficus religiosa species, and gained spiritual enlightenment. Long a destination for pilgrims, the tree’s distinctive features are its long-reaching branches and heart-shaped leaves.
In Hinduism, the Sadhus’ (monks who are abstinent from worldly pleasures) meditate under fig trees as they believe they hold spiritual significance. They chant, “Vriksha Rajaya Namah” which translates as “salutation to the king of trees.”
The Great Banyan tree is another famous ficus plant that holds special significance to the world. The ficus benghalensis is located near Kolkata, India and was once known to be the widest tree in the world up until the mid-1920s. The tree had become diseased, due to the aerial roots exposure to fungus during cyclones in the late 19th Century, so branches were cut in order to stop the disease from reaching the entire tree.
There is also evidence to suggest that the fig tree was the first plant in Europe to be cultivated and bred for agricultural purposes, more than 11,000 years ago.
The fig fruit can offer things like laxative substances, flavonoids and vitamins A and C. Though, it should be noted that the juices of a fig can be trigger allergic reactions as well as being a serious eye irritant.
How To Care For Ficus Indoors
Ficus can be quite fickle in the way that they grow and if you don’t take extra care with them, they will often die out quicker than you’d expect.
- Ficus prefer bright indirect light from a variety of sources. Natural light is typically best.
- Keep ficus in temperatures above 60ËšF and avoid leaving them near cold drafts as this will do harm.
- When watering them, it is good practice to check the soil it is planted in. Ficus do not like to be over or under-watered. Ficus trees are notorious for shedding leaves under moisture stress. They will often recover if moisture levels are corrected and consistent.
- Keep the humidity levels up by placing pebbles around the soil and roots.
- Ficus can grow quite fast too so they need plenty of nutrients to keep them healthy.
Looking for more interesting plants? Discover “The Plant with the Heart of Dragon.”