The banks of the many streams that flow off Kinabalu  are the best sites to find Kinabalu’s endemic figs including Ficus virescens, Ficus cereicarpa, Ficus malayana, and Ficus eumorpha. These pioneer figs  also grow along mountain roadsides as well, such as with the fruiting Ficus eumorpha pictured below. All photos are of the same tree growing next to the Mesilau river taken from the river road bridge BEFORE it was destroyed by the earthquake of 5 June 2015. The slopes around Mesilau were particularly badly hit by multiple landslides.

Rather than a natural disaster this was a natural event which has taken place repeatedly on Kinabalu over the last few million years exposing bare earth where pioneer plant species such as Ficus eumorpha can flourish in full sunlight before tall forest can again become dominant. Repeated earthquakes and the consequent landslides are one of the reasons that Kinabalu has the highest diversity of  plant life on Planet Earth.

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Ficus eumorpha at Mesilau in the Kinabalu Park. The open ostiole on the base of the  fig fruit in the upper  middle of the photo indicates that that this is a male tree on which the figs only produce wasps not seeds. With some of the figs on this tree the wasps have already left whilst with others the wasps are  are not quite ready to leave (fig ostiole is still closed). After the wasps have left these male  fig fruit will fall to the ground and rot uneaten.

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This is a photo of the same Mesilau river valley pictured at the top of this article  after the Kinabalu earthquake of 5 June 2015. The Ficus eumorpha tree pictured above was obviously destroyed  by the landslide but the bare earth opened up by the landslide is prime habitat for pioneer vegetation such as  Ficus eumorpha to re-establish.  It is this constantly changing mosaic of habitats that makes Kinabalu so rich in rare endemic fig species. Photo by Anthea Phillipps.

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