FICUS SUBULATA Blume (1825) SECTION: SYCIDIUM
Latin: Needle like – referring to the shape of the stipule (leaf bud).
Habit: Small tree or climber to 15m with long drooping branches often with rootlets which establish in neighboring trees.
Large leaves 10-20 cm but up to 35 cm long by 4-9cm wide with a smooth surface and entire (even) leaf edge. The leaves are distichous and almost symmetric sometimes with a small auricle or extension on one side of the leaf base. The leaf has 8-16 pairs of steeply ascending side veins. The petiole (leaf stalk) is very variable in length but up to 3cm long.
The small figs (1-1.5cm) grow in the leaf axils or clusters on the branches (ramiflorus). The figs hang from short peduncles up to 0.8 cm long. Figs ripen yellow to orange to red brown.
Similar species: F. midotis which also has large leaves smooth on the upper surface often with auricles and small figs. Note that there are three Sycidium species with tiny lateral bracts on the fig which grow by extending branched rootlets, F. subulata, F.subsidens and leptocalama but the last two species spread over the ground. Only F. subulata grows from one tree to another sideways in the sub-canopy of the forest.
Distinguish from F. midotis : (1) By the clean sharp needle like stipule of F. subulata compared with the short hairy messy stipule of F. midotis (2) The midrib of F. subulata is prominently raised. The midrib of F. midotis is sunken.
Distribution: Common throughout the wetter forests of Borneo up to 1700m on Kinabalu.
Range: Himalayas to S. China including Hong Kong south throughout Malesia to New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.
ECOLOGY OF FICUS SUBULATA
“The young plant sends roots round a host trunk 2-10m above ground which clasp it in position and then along the trunk to the ground but they do not form a root trunk. When established on one tree it produces lax branches with long internodes and much reduced leaves. The branches can reach up to 6 m long, and perhaps more, and, on sagging, they contact the branches and trunks of nearby trees to which they attach themselves with encircling roots in the manner of a young plant; a new crown is then developed with its own set of descending roots. The process is repeated until aerial thickets are constructed and the stand of host trunks looks as if it has been heavily infected by many plants although it may all have started with one”. Adapted from Corner (1976).