Description: Large tree with a broadly rounded crown formed from many sturdy branches often arising from near the ground. Prominent aerial roots form secondary trunks. Main trunks large, to 3 feet or more in diameter. Bark usually gray, smooth. Leaves thick and leathery, dark green above and paler beneath, usually 3-5 inches long. Semi-deciduous, the leaves turning over rapidly in the late winter or early spring.
Dimensions: Typically 40-60 feet in height; to 76 feet in South Florida. Often as broad as tall.
Growth Rate: Fast.
Monroe County Keys north to Brevard, Osceola, Polk, Hillsborough and Pinellas counties; West Indies, southern Mexico and Central America. For a digitized image of Elbert Little's Florida range map, visit the Exploring Florida website.
Habitats: Hammocks; also swamps, where it will grow semi-epiphytically on cypress (Taxodium) or cabbage palms (Sabal palmetto).
Soils: Moist, well-drained to moderately well-drained sandy or limestone soils, with humusy top layer; semi-epiphytic in swamps.
Nutritional Requirements: Moderate; can grow in nutrient poor soils, but needs some organic content to thrive.
Salt Water Tolerance: Moderate; tolerates brackish water or occasional inundation by salt water.
Salt Wind Tolerance: High; can tolerate moderate amounts of salt wind without significant injury.
Drought Tolerance: High; does not require any supplemental water once established.
Light Requirements: Full sun.
Flower Color: N/A; flowers are borne inside of figs.
Flower Characteristics: Inconspicuous.
Flowering Season: All year; peak spring-summer.
Fruit: Red or yellow stalkless figs, soft when ripe. All year.
Wildlife and Ecology: Strangler fig often begins life as an epiphyte, later sending roots down into the ground. It is mostly distributed by birds, which consume the figs. It most often recruits on cabbage palm (Sabal palmetto). It provides significant food and cover for wildlife. It is the larval host plant for ruddy daggerwing (Marpesia petreus) butterflies and fig sphinx (Pachylia ficus) moths. Fig whiteflies feed on the leaves and twigs. It is pollinated by a host-specific wasp (Pegoscapus mexicanus). Cedar waxwings and many other birds eat the fruits. It supports a large community of insects, which provide food for insectivorous birds.
Horticultural Notes: Easily grown from seed. Smash figs on paper, let dry and then brush the small seeds onto the soil in a container. Do not cover seeds with soil. Start in light shade or full sun.
References: Hammer 2004, Nelson 2003, Schaefer & Tanner 1997
Comments: Unlike some non-native fig trees, strangler fig can withstand high winds and rarely blows over in hurricanes or tropical storms. The roots can be invasive, especially around sources of water such as septic tanks and drainfields. It readily recruits in the garden, especially in cracks in stone surfaces. Unlike its native relative shortleaf fig (Ficus citrifolia), it has abundant aerial roots.
Copyright by: Roger L. Hammer
Copyright by: George D. Gann
Copyright by: George D. Gann
Copyright by: Alex P. Seasholtz, 2019 In habitat in Florida City Pineland, Miami-Dade County