Ficus tristaniifolia Corner (1960).jpg

TRISTANIA FIG Ficus tristaniifolia  Corner (1960) SECTION CONOSYCEAE

Latin: Leaves similar to the leaves of Tristania a genus in the Myrtacea plant family.

Plant: Medium size strangler to 35m uncommon in kerangas and peat swamp forest throughout the  SW coastal areas of Borneo.

Leaf: Small, spirally arranged, obovate leaves, 4-9cm long x 1.5-4.5cm wide with a petiole (leaf stalk) up to 1cm long. The leaves are stiff and glossy with invisible side veins.

Fig: Small fig 1.5-2 cm, sessile (no stalk) in pairs in the leaf axils but often on the bare branches behind the leaves. The figs ripen green to orange to red.

Sex: Monoecious.

Similar species: Ficus spathulifolia is a much more common peat swamp fig likely to be found in similar locations and with similar looking leaves and figs.

Ecology: At Gunung Palung in West Kalimantan, Laman & Weiblen (1998) described the following differences in ecology between F. spathulifolia and F. tristaniifolia;

  1. F. tristaniifolia grew as a strangler on tall trees with a single large drop down aerial root which make the fig self supporting if the host tree died whist the aerial roots of F. spathulifolia were relatively small.
  2. F. spathulifolia was abundant across peat swamp, freshwater swamp and  lowland sandstone whilst F. tristaniifolia was rare and confined to pea tswamp forest.
  3. The figs of F, spathulifolia ripem yellw, orange, red whilst the figs of tristaniifolia ripen green to white.

Distingush: Ficus tristanniifolia has obovate leaves with side veins that are almost invisible whist the side veins of F. spatulifolia are often indistinct but still clearly visible.

Distribution: A rare fig of coastal swamps with all known records from south and west Borneo. Sarawak: Pulau Bruit. Kalimantan: At Gng Palung much less common than F. spathulifolia. Only 12 individuals were found and they were all confined to peat swamp forest. Laman/Weiblen. Also recorded from  Sampit in Central Kalimantan (Kalteng).

Range: Malay Peninsula, Borneo. The type was collected at Pontian Johore.


Differing habits of Stranglers at Gunung Palung by Laman and Weiblen:  “Among free-standing stranglers the way in which the roots support the crown varies considerably. In F. caulocarpa, numerous roots encircle the host trunk in a fused network. When the host tree dies and rots away, a hollow center remains. F. kerkhovenii, on the other hand, sends down one or more roots that expand along the host trunk. Instead of forming a rigid network around the host trunk, these roots develop flying buttresses that extend several meters above the ground and form a supporting base for the plant after the host dies. In contrast, F. tristaniifolia,  produces a single root that expands until it is larger than the host trunk and is capable of supporting the plant. Often the only indications that the plant began as an epiphyte are small, horizontal hoops that once wrapped around the bole of the host”. Laman & Weiblen (1998)