SUPERB FIG Ficus superba  Miq. (1867)        SECTION: SYCOMOROUS

Latin: Superb – no doubt referring to the magnificent spectacle of this fig when fruiting, with branches covered in dense agglomerations of ramiflorus figs.

Plant: Medium size strangler to 30m. In S E Asia a scarce fig of coastal districts.

Leaf: Large leaf, up to 20cm long x 12cm wide with a long petiole (leaf stalk) up to 12cm.

Fig: Small ramiflorus figs 0.5-1.5cm with a peduncle up to 1.5cm long. There are 3 prominent basal bracts at the base of the peduncle which are usually absent in herbarium collections (caducous). The figs ripen green to white to purple spotted white.

Similar species: The related Urostigma figs F. concinna and  F. virens have smaller leaves with shorter petioles. However their figs ripen white spotted purple not purple spotted white.

Distinguish: By location. Ficus superba has not yet been recorded on the Borneo mainland

Distribution: The only Borneo records are from the numerous small Natuna and Anamba Islands scattered at the southern end of the S. China Sea, between Singapore and Borneo. There are no records from the mainland of either Borneo or Sumatra.

Range: Coast of Vietnam and Thailand south to the Malay Peninsula, Java, Celebes and Seram. Not found on Sumatra or Borneo.

Ecology:  A common resident on the small islands offshore Singapore, where phenological studies Yeo & Tan (2009) Reproduction of F.superba Singapore  showed that trees produced an average of four crops of figs a year at random intervals with no synchrony between individual trees. However if figs remained unpollinated then crop ripening could be delayed by over 3 weeks to allow extra time for pollinating fig wasps to arrive, effectively synchronizing crops between trees to some degree.

Edited F superba Endeavour NHM .jpg

Voyage of the Endeavour Aug. 1768-July 1771. The illustration of Ficus superba is by Sydney Parkinson, a botanical artist who accompanied Captain James Cook on the first voyage from England to Australia and New Zealand.  Parkinson completed nearly 1,000 sketches and drawings before his early death during the voyage.Natuna Islands.jpg