SIMON’S FIG Ficus binnendijkii Miq. (1867) SECTION: CONOSYCEA
Latin: Named for the Dutch botanist Simon Binnendijk 1821-1883 a curator of the botanic gardens at Buitenzorg (Bogor) in Java.
Habit: A locally common small strangler 10m-50m. At Lambir a growth habit peculiar to this fig is that instead of stopping growth when it reaches light to the side of the host tree and extending it’s branches sideways it will continue growing until it has topped the host tree. Unlike other Conosycea stranglers it specializes in sub-canopy host trees not canopy trees or emergents. (Harrison et al 2003)
Leaf: Extremely variable 3-15 cm long by 1-5 cm wide. The leaves of juvenile plants often differ from the leaves of adult plants by being long and narrow but always with a pointed leaf tip. However the veins on juvenile leaves are not well defined. The adult leaves have prominent veins especially the basal veins which may extend around the whole periphery of the leaf. Leaves of both types have been recorded on the same tree. The only other fig in Section Conosycea which produces leaves of two different shapes is Ficus maclellandii which does not occur in wild in Borneo. There is a small overlap between the two species in the forests on the border of the Malay Peninsular and southern Thailand.
Fig: The tiny figs (0.3-0.6cm) grow in pairs in the leaf axils at the ends of the branches and initially are enclosed in calyptrate bud covers. Figs ripen pale green to bright orange. The ostiole is open when the fig is ripe (as is also true of F. pellucidopunctata and F. pisocarpa). The 3 basal bracts are usually small – sometimes so small they are almost invisible.
Similar species: Plants with normal adult shaped leaves may be confused with any of the small leaved stranglers such as Ficus sumatrana.
Plants with lanceolate juvenile leaves may be confused with ornamental varieties of Ficus maclellandii which are often grown as pot plants throughout the world. See also Ficus celebensis and F. pallescens.
Distinguish: (1) By the tiny figs which ripen orange with an open ostiole and (2) the small thick leathery leaves which are usually three 3 x as long as wide with a sharply pointed apex. (3) By the growth habit as described above.
Distribution: Scarce but widespread throughout western Borneo in lowland and hill forest. Sabah: No records from Kinabalu. There are records from East Sabah.
Brunei: There is a fine example growing next to the middle of the canopy walkway at Belalong in the Temburong National Park, Brunei, which fruits regularly attracting many birds and mammals.
Sarawak: At Lambir Hills, uncommon but widespread (Harrison).
Kalimantan: No records from East or South Kalimantan. At Gng Palung (West Kalimantan) Laman and Weiblen (1998) record that F. binnendijkii was the “by far the most abundant strangler species in lowland and submontane habitats, especially abundant on submontane granite habitats”
Range: India east to Vietnam and the Philippines south to Sumatra, Java and Borneo east to the Solomon Islands and Australia. An uncommon fig tree in Singapore.