RHOMBIC LEAF FIG Ficus tinctoria var gibbosa  Blume (1825) SECTION: SYCIDIUM

Latin: tinctoria=dye. The latex of this fig can be used for dyeing cloth yellow. Gibbosa= named after Lillian Gibbs an English botanist who climbed Kinabalu in February 2010 and who first discovered this fig.

Habit: Epiphytic climber or small tree. Locally common in some coastal towns often growing on buildings and in parks.

Leaf: The leaves are extremely varied often rhombic (squared off) – see illustrations.

Fig: Very small in pairs at the base of the leaf ripening yellow to orange to red.

Similar Species: Two sister varieties  Ficus tinctoria var tinctoria

and Ficus tinctoria var hutan

Distinguish: By the thick waxy leaves often rhombic (with square angles)  in shape but the leaves may also be long and slim. Leaves dry a curious orange brown colour.

Distribution: Locally common in some  towns and areas with cliffs but absent  from lowland forest. Recorded from Signal Hill and from slope forest above the access road to Nexus Resort, Kota Kinabalu. According  to (Beaman 2004), common on the lower slopes of Kinabalu but this appears to be a different variety Ficus tinctoria var hutan.

There are no Brunei records (Coode 1996) or records from Lambir National Park in N. Sarawak. According to Anderson (1980) Ficus tinctoria var gibbosa  is frequent on the limestone hills of W. Sarawak. Also  common on cliffs at Mulu. Locally common growing on buildings  in Kota Kinabalu and Kuching.

No Kalimantan records

Range: Sri Lanka to S. China, south to the Malay Peninsula, Sumatra, Java, Borneo and the Lesser Sundas. In the Philippines found only on Palawan where it hybridizes with a sister variety Ficus tinctoria variety tinctoria.

04 Range Map 2 species Final with text - Copy.jpg

 Taxonomy: Ficus tinctoria  has the widest native distribution of any fig  in the world being found from Sri Lanka eastwards to  French Polynesia (e.g. Tahiti)  in the Pacific Islands. Corner  (1975) speculated that the very wide Pacific distribution might be due to the fact that Polynesian  sailors used the soft wood  of F. tinctoria to  transport fire (via smoldering embers) between islands. However Corner was probably wrong  because  the figs need to be pollinated by fig wasps  to survive on a remote island  and the fig wasps appear to be present throughout the range. The most likely explanation is that Ficus tinctoria often grows on cliffs and the ripe figs fall directly into the sea and are sea dispersed. On arrival on a distance beach the figs are dragged ashore by crabs and stored in their burrows in the nearby coastal forest where the seeds later germinate.

Within the world range is range there are two recognized varieties or sub-species Ficus tinctoria var. tinctoria and F. tinctoria var. gibbosa with mostly non-overlapping distributions (apart from Palawan), as shown on the map above. 

Ficus tinctoria var tinctoria is more common throughout most of the the world range but in Borneo has so far only been found on two remote islands in the Derawan Group off the coast of East Kalimantan, Pulau Nunukan and Pulau Kakaban.