FICUS HISPIDA  L. (1782)                                                     SECTION SYCOCARPUS

Latin: Hairy referring to the hairy figs, leaves and leaf stalks.

Plant: Small tree to 17 m with multiple  hanging branches of green/yellow figs attached to the trunk and branches. Locally common in parks, gardens and secondary forest in E. Kalimantan.

Leaf: Large 5-25 cm (but up to 35 cm) long by 2.5-10 cm wide, normally symmetric. The leaf margin may be more or less toothed (dentate) with short hairs along the edge. This one of only four Bornean figs known to have opposite leaves. See Ficus cumingii.

Sex: Dioecious.

Fig: The medium sized figs (1-3 cm) grow in bunches on leafless shoots emanating from the trunk sometimes in hanging curtains. Figs ripen greenish yellow and are dispersed primarily by small fruit bats and also by palm civets.

Ecology: A common fig in the drier areas of SE Asia including Java where it is abundant. In Borneo possibly introduced or a relic of a dryer climate in the past.

Similar species: (1) F. fistulosa, (2) F. septica, (3) F. lepicarpa (4) F. rosulata  (5) F. satterthwatei  and (6) F. treubii   which are all common bat figs which ripen green.

Distinguish: By the hairy green figs, leaves and leaf stalks and the opposite (decussate) leaves and the very local restricted distribution in coastal east Borneo.

Distribution: In Borneo the only records are from secondary forest on the east coast between  Balikpapan north to Kutai. Also on the Natuna and Anamba Islands (South China Sea) between Borneo and Singapore.

Range: Sri Lanka, India east to China, south to Sumatra, Java, Sulawesi, and east to New Guinea and Northern Australia. First recorded in Singapore in 1999 and now known from four areas of secondary forest. Lee et al (2013) regard F. hispida as an exotic plant in an early phase of naturalizing in Singapore possibly a relic of earlier cultivation.

Lee et al (2013) Ficus hispida in Singapore

02 Hispida only Corner 2005 map WEB -.jpg

Ficus hispida distribution map from Berg & Corner (2005). Note that more recent records indicate that Ficus hispida occurs also in the Darwin area of Northern Australia and northern Western Australia, Singapore and E. Borneo.

Opposite Leaf arrangement unique to Ficus hispida in Borneo: Lee at al (2013) report that Singapore F. hispida has distinctive opposite leaves (highly unusual for a fig) whereas Berg (2005) states that the leaves maybe spirally arranged, sub-opposite or distichous.
The type of F. hispida var borneensis which was collected in Borneo by Vriese  (top of this article) has opposite leaves. An examination of F. hispida growing in the Princes of Wales Conservatory at Kew (U.K) shows that the leaves are opposite with each pair turned at 90 degrees to the pair above and below on the same branch. Often a leaf is missing from one side of a pair giving the appearance of a spiral arrangement. The botanical term for this leaf arrangement is decussate.  As far as is known F. hispida is the only Borneo fig with a decussate leaf arrangement. Illustration from William Roxburgh, Plants of the Coast of Coromandel (1798).