Ficus grossularioides is a common secondary forest fig throughout most of Kalimantan and Sarawak but it is uncommon in Brunei and absent from Sabah where it is replaced ecologically by Ficus septica. The allopatric (non-overlapping) ranges of two of Borneo’s most common secondary forest figs in the same section (Eriosycea) is obviously related to competitive exclusion but the ecology has never been investigated and the explanation is unknown.
WHITE-LEAF FIG Ficus gossularioides Burm. (1768) Locally common
Latin: Similar to the European fruit the gooseberry Ribes grossularia referring to the shape, colour and hairiness of the fig.
Plant: Medium size tree to 30m common in secondary forest in Kalimantan and Sarawak.
Leaf: The large leaves are extremely variable in shape and size from palmate (especially juvenile leaves) to elliptic to heart shaped with very long petioles (leaf stalk).
Fig: The small fig (1.25cm) grows in the leaf axils and ripen yellow to orange brown to red.
Distinguish: By the pale colouring of the underside of the dentate leaf combined with the (sometimes) palmate leaves. Note that underside of the leaves can vary from brilliant white in Kalimantan to only slightly pale in Temburong, Brunei.
Note also that the very common Macaranga tanarius has palmate leaves which are bright white (glaucous) below. However M. tanarius leaves are always peltate (the leaf stalk does not join the leaf-base at the edge of the leaf but somewhere in the middle). No Borneo fig has peltate leaves an instant distinguishing feature between secondary forest figs and Macarangas.
Similar Species: The variable leaves including large palmate leaves with 3 to 5 lobes may be confused with Ficus aurata, F. fulva and F. brunneoaurata. However these figs all have very hairy dentate leaves which are not pale underneath.
Ficus chartacea leaves are pale underneath and may occasionally be slightly palmate but the leaves are not dentate (toothed along the edges) like F. grossularioides.
Distribution: One of the commonest figs of secondary forest in Kalimantan and South Borneo north to the 4th Division of Sarawak on the west coast and the Mahakam River on the East Coast. In the mountains of Kalimantan F. grossularioides is replaced by the much rarer F. tricolor. A very common fig of secondary forest around Kuching.
Range Thailand south to the Malay Peninsula, Sumatra, Java and Borneo. A common fig of secondary forest in Singapore.