BEE FIG Ficus albipila King (1888) SECTION: OREOSYCEAE
Latin: White hairs referring to the white hairs on the underside of the leaves which are not obvious in Borneo. In Australia variously known as the Poison Fig (because of the highly irritant latex) or Abbey Fig. In Thailand known as the Bee Fig due to the fact that migrant Giant Honeybees Apis dorsata often hang their nests from the branches . 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 45 m) 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 at the Danau Girang Field Centre. Also common at Tabin where it grows on the floodplain of the Lipad river.
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 sometimes with cordate bases quite similar to the leaves of Ficus variegata but with a shiny or waxy surface above. Young plants have heart shaped serrated leaves also remarkably similar to young plants of Ficus variegata. In Thailand the leaves have dense white hairs on the underside
Fig: The figs are often stipitate and hang on short thick stalks in the leaf axils towards the ends of the branches and ripen, green, yellow to bright red. In Australia the fig fruit are covered in short, dense white hairs but in Borneo the figs are smooth.
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 rain forests of tropical Queensland. Extinct in Singapore and very rare in the Malay Peninsula.