Ficus subgelderi is a typical hemi-epiphyte member of the Ficus Section Conosyceae, which grow as epiphytes in the canopy with one or more long roots connecting them to the ground. Ficus subgelderi has two important features which distinguish this fig from most other members of Section Conosycea.
(1) The stipules (the loose covering of new leaf glowing orange in the photo) are covered in short hairs. This is common with other Ficus Sections but with the Section Conosycea stranglers it is unique to F. subgelderi, F. pellucidopunctata (which has a very different fig fruit), and F. sundaica which normally has very different side veins which are much more numerous but less distinct than F. subgelderi. (Note that F. drupacea and F. cucurbitina have short stubby stipules often covered in hairs)
(2) Members of Section Conosycea typically have smooth glossy surfaces to the upper leaf a method of conserving water at canopy height. However the upper surface of the leaves of F. subgelderi are exceptionally smooth and glossy. The dry leaves in a herbarium are instantly recognizable by their glossy “golden” appearance, hence the Latin name which means “similar to gold”.
Some Bornean stranglers produce two types of stipules. (1) Resting stipules and (2) Flushing stipules. Flushing stipules indicate that the whole branch is flushing with new growth. Flushing stipules are much larger than resting stipules and often brightly colored. Large bright red flushing stipules are characteristic for Ficus crassiramea and Ficus subgelderii.
The Belalong Canopy Walkway at Ulu Temburong National Park in Brunei.