FICUS HEMSLEYANA King (1888) SECTION SYCIDIUMg
Latin: Named in honor of W. B. Hemsley (1843-1924) a keeper of the Kew Herbarium.
Habit: Small tree or climber to 12m locally common throughout the lowland and hill forests of Borneo.
Leaves; Very large leaves 19-35cm long by 5-13cm wide with a rough surface and toothed edges. The sessile (no stalk) leaves are spirally arranged not distichous ( in a flat plane) like F. obscura. The leaves are asymmetric with a distinctive “auricle” on one side of the leaf base and have 7-10 pairs of steeply ascending side veins Kochummen (2000).
Figs: The tiny figs (0.4-0.6cm) grow in dense clusters on the trunk or branches. The figs hang from short peduncles up to 1.5cm long. Figs ripen bright orange-red in a simultaneous “big bang” giving the plant a very distinctive appearance at this time.
Similar species: Both F. hemsleyana and F. obscura are common epiphytic figs with large rough, toothed, auricled, asymmetrical leaves without leaf stalks (petioles) and with small figs which grow in bunches on the trunk (cauliflorus) and branches (ramiflorus).
(1) F. hemsleyana is usually a small tree, whereas F. obscura is usually a climber.
(2) The leaves of F. hemsleyana are spirally arranged but distichous in F. obscura
(3) The figs ripen white to pink to pale orange in F. obscura but bright orange in F. hemsleyana.
(4) F. hemsleyana leaves are consistently larger and have more side veins than F. obscura.
Distribution: A common Borneo endemic, especially common in Sarawak where F. obscura is uncommon. Found in primary and secondary forest up to 1500m on Kinabalu where Beaman (2004) found it to be the 14th commonest fig.
Ecology: One of Borneo’s commonest understorey bird figs, especially abundant throughout Sarawak.