BEE FIG Ficus albipila  King (1888)    SECTION: OREOSYCEAE

Latin: White hairs referring to the white hairs on the fig. In Australia variously known as the Poison Fig or Abbey Fig. In Thailand known as the Bee Fig. Around Cairns in N. Queensland this fig is known as Gimuy after the local Aboriginal tribe who in the past carved war shields from the large buttresses.

Plant: A striking tall tree (to 45m) with only 3 recorded sites in Borneo until recently. Now known to be locally common on the Kinabatangan floodplain between the Sg Resang  and Sukau and also at  the Danau Girang Field Centre .

ID: Mature trees are very similar to the other 4 species of SECTION:Oreosycea figs found in Borneo all of which have tall straight white trunks with large buttresses and are best identified by the (fallen) fruit and leaves.

Leaves: Adult leaves are oblong heart shaped with cordate bases quite similar to the leaves of Ficus variegata. Young plants have heart shaped serrated leaves also remarkably similar to young plants of Ficus variegata.


Fig: The figs hang on short thick stalks in the leaf axils towards the ends of the branches and ripen, green, orange to dark red, and are usually covered in a thin layer of dense white hairs hence the latin name.

Sex: Monoecious.

Similar species: The tall straight white trunk can be mistaken for the other Oreosycea figs found in Borneo as well as the two very common species of giant Koompasia trees. Local botanists often mistake this tree for Ficus variegata but unlike F. variegata the fig fruits do not grow from the trunk but hang on stalks from the ends of the branches

Distinguish: From other Oreosycea figs by differences in leaves and figs. Distinguish from Koompasia by the white latex that exudes from the cut trunk. Local Kinabatangan botanists until recently assumed that the F. albipila growing on the Kinabatangan floodplain were Ficus variegata  (Local name Tandiran) however compared to Ficus variegata trees, Ficus albipila is a HUGE tree.

Distribution: In Borneo until recently there were only 3 collections (1) Kinabatangan River (Reza Azmi RA75, Sg. Resang, Kg Sukau) where Azmi found a dozen examples, Banjarmasin in S. Kalimantan (Kochummen 2000) and from Kutai (Sengatta, Leighton 511, Leiden) E. Kalimantan.

Range: A patchy distribution from S. Thailand, Sumatra, Borneo, Java, east to N. Guinea and south to Australia where it is thinly spread in the rainforests of tropical Queensland. Extinct in Singapore and very rare in the Malay Peninsular.

Koompasia at Tabin PC170142 enhanced.jpg
Mengaris Koompasia excelsa tree at Tabin.  Ficus albipila is often confused with the two Borneo species of Koompasia. See below for Ficus albipila comparison.
Enhanced 3P7A8195 - Copy.JPG
Ficus albipila at Sukau on the Kinabatangan flood plain in Sabah  The trunk of Ficus albipila has a shiny slightly bronze sheen (compared with bright white for Koompasia). The leaves  of Ficus albipila are several times larger than the the leaves of the two Koompasia species and  Ficus albipila has a distinct deciduous season when it temporarily looses all it leaves.  On the Kinabatangan this was in January. Note also that the branches  grow more upright than the branches of  the two Koompasias.