Friday, May 14, 2010

Ficus natalensis - Natal Fig

The dense, dark green, drooping canopy of the magnificent Ficus natalensis makes it one of our finest indigenous shade trees. The size and growth habit of this handsome tree varies widely, depending on the climate and general growing conditions. In the Cape region for example, the Natal Fig has a neat single trunk and tends to be smaller than it’s counterparts growing in subtropical regions, where the canopy becomes far wider with a profusion of aerial roots and a buttressed trunk. The fruit or figs that are produced prolifically by these adaptable trees, while not suitable for human consumption, attract a great diversity of wildlife to the garden from birds to bats and a variety of insects. The versatile Ficus natalensis is wind and drought resistant and tolerates temperatures from -5C – 30+C.
Botanical Name Ficus natalensis
Common Name Natal Fig
RSA National Tree No’  57
If you are creating a shady area in a large garden, park or estate, Ficus natalensis should be your first choice. On the driest, hottest summer day, the dense shade of this superb tree will provide a cool haven in which to relax. The graceful weeping habit of this beautiful tree has great aesthetic appeal making it an excellent choice as a striking specimen tree. The Natal Fig can even withstand extremely dry conditions making it a suitable choice where regular watering is not always possible. Be sure to plant these trees away from buildings, walls and paved areas as the vigorous root system may cause damage.
Height 5m-20m
Spread 4m-8m
Deciduous/Evergreen Evergreen
Growth Habit
Ficus natalensis occurs naturally in both moist woodland and dry open areas of the country.
The bark is quite smooth and dark grey, sometimes with thin aerial roots.
The elliptic leaves of the Natal Fig are arranged spirally, alternate or sub-opposite and are quite variable, ranging in size 25-75 x 12-40mm. They are dark green, smooth and thinly leathery with a single midrib not quite reaching the apex and without a distinct pair of lateral veins at the base.
The miniscule flowers are found inside the fruit and are pollinated by the fig wasp.
The yellow - red fruit or small figs that occur from March to January are axillary on terminal branchlets and are either smooth or slightly hairy.
The tiny seeds are inside the fruit and are distributed by birds and other animals that feed on the figs.

Ficus natalensis is found all along the eastern and south eastern coast of South Africa, as well as drier inland regions and north to Uganda and Kenya.
Growing conditions

The Natal Fig is easy to grow and likes a sunny or semi shaded position with a moderate amount of water.
Best season All year
The beautiful Ficus natalensis is drought tolerant and will even withstand some frost.
The fastest and easiest means of propagation is from cuttings but the seeds also germinate readily.
Growth rate
Ficus natalensis is one of the most widely used species by Bonsai enthusiasts. The fat stem and intricately gnarled roots are perfect for achieving a variety of popular Bonsai styles. This species grows ’banyan’ roots naturally which can be showcased as dramatic air-root or root over rock styles. The Natal Fig grows fast and is quite forgiving if incorrect watering methods are applied, making this the ideal choice for the novice enthusiast.


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