PAPER-LEAF FIG Ficus chartacea  Wall ex. King. (1888)  SECTION:ERIOSYCEAE

Latin: Paper fig referring to the papery feel of the dried leaves.

Plant: Small  strangling tree or bush  to 12 m common along the edge of primary forest. The leaves grow alternately along the branches . Berg (2005) says that the leaves grow in spirals or whorls but this is often not obvious  and  often they appear to grow in flat sprays.

Leaf: The long elliptic leaf 7.5-15 cm long x 2.5-6 cm wide is very variable in shape. The upper surface of the leaf is often covered in white dots-hence an alternative common name of Speckle-leaf Fig. The underside is  pale. The young leaves are pale pink transparent.

Hydathodes: These white dots known as hydathodes are obvious on the upper surface of many fig leaves e.g. F. septica but are probably most obvious on F. chartacea. Hydathodes are used for guttation- the expulsion of  excess water and mineral salts. See article on this subject under Ficus septica.

Petiole (leaf stalk) may be almost absent or up to 6 cm long and is articulate (swollen) like an elbow at both ends to allow the leaf to flex in passing breezes.

Fig: A small fig (0.6-0.8 cm) which ripens, green to yellow to orange to red. There is a short stalk and a prominent ostiole. The figs ripen from green spotted white to orange to red.

Sex: Dioecious

Similar Species: Because of enormous variation in shape of leaf, length of leaf stalk and general appearance this fig can be very difficult to distinguish. Look for the following distinctive features:

Ficus chartacea IMG_2857.JPG

Distinguish:  (1) The unique young floppy leaves (usually single at the terminal end of a branch) which are pale, cream or pink before turning green- never seen on Sycidiums. (2) The stipule is thin and pointed often tinted reddish (3) The undersurface of the leaf is pale grey green. (3) There are often prominent hydathodes  (pale white dots) on the dark green surface of the leaf

Distribution: Common along the edge of primary forest in the lowlands throughout Borneo up to 1,750. Sabah: Sandakan, Kinabatangan,Crocker Range, Brunei: Bukit Teraja. Sarawak: Lambir, Mulu (common at cave entrances), Gng Santubong. Kalimantan: Long Bangun in Kaltim and Serawai in Kalbar.

Range: Myanmar east to Vietnam and Thailand and south to the Malay Peninsula. Rare in Sumatra, absent from Java. A rare forest fig in Singapore but can be seen growing along the edge of the rainforest next to the path at the top of Palm Valley in the Singapore Botanic Gardens.