Ficus barba-jovis photographed from the Rainforest Discovery Centre canopy walkway at Sepilok in Sabah. The Latin name means “Beard of Jupiter” ( Jupiter being one of several Roman gods named after a planet) and refers to the short hairs that cover the large fig fruit.
Botanists often mistakenly call this fig Ficus punctata which name refers to another species of root climbing fig in Section Kissoycea with very large fig fruit. Fortunately the two species are very easily distinguished. Ficus puncta has small oblong or roundish flat leaves without a pointed tip whereas F.barba-jovis leaves are narrower and pointed and often bullate (corrugated with sunken veins). F. barba-jovi leaves are often “decurrent” with a lobe on one side of the leaf base. Ficus punctata figs are usually spotted when young and the fig surface is shiny bright green, orange or red with no obvious hairs. Both fig species are common in Sabah, however Ficus punctata is also found from Thailand south to Java and the Lesser Sundas whilst Ficus barber-jovis is endemic to Sabah.
In sunlit areas a dense mat of leaves may cover the whole tree trunk
A hornbill nest box erected near the RDEC canopy walkway was soon covered by the leaves of Ficus barba-jovis. The box design was not suitable for hornbills (no landing perch and entrance too large) but this box was soon occupied by a family Red Giant Flying Squirrels instead.
The Rainforest Discovery Centre Canopy Walkway at Sepilok is an excellent site for both bird watching and botanising.
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