SMOOTH FIG Ficus laevis Blume (1825) SECTION: KISSOSYCEAE
Latin: Smooth referring to the surface of the fig fruit.
Habit: Root climbing vine which grows up tree trunks with the leaves in spirals. The leaves have very long petioles (leaf stalks) which is unusual for root climbing figs.
Leaves: The heart shaped leaves with long petioles (stalks) have been mistaken for those of Ficus variegata. The only similar root climbing fig in Borneo is Ficus densechini which is only found in mountain forest and has much larger figs and leaves.
Figs: The large figs (2-3.5cm) with a long stalk (peduncle) up to 3cm long ripen green/brown and likely evolved for bat dispersal.
Similar species: (1) Herbarium collections without a description of the plant have been confused with Ficus variegata as both the leaves and figs are so similar although it would be impossible to confuse a root climbing vine with a fig tree in the forest. Ficus variegata, Police HQ, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah
(2) Herbarium specimens can also be confused with F. apiocarpa as the position of the leaves, the length of the petiole and the shape and venation of the leaf are so similar (Berg 2005). They can be told apart because F. laevis has a a pale whitish rough under surface to the leaf. Ficus apiocarpa: Introduction
(3) See also the description of the Borneo endemic Ficus densechini. Ficus densechini: Introduction
Distribution: Common on the Asian continent and in Java and Sumatra but a true mystery fig in Borneo where it is very rare with a relict distribution obviously the result of a dryer climate in Borneo in the past during the Pleistocene glaciations.
Sabah: Beluran in logged forest.
Sarawak (1) Gunung Subis at Niah (2) Kelabit Highlands Bario (next to air strip).
Range: A common native climber throughout the drier areas of India, Thailand, and Vietnam. Uncommon in the Malay Peninsula but common in Sumatra and very common in Java. In Singapore recorded as critically endangered (Chong et al 2009).
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