Latin: Refers to the scabrous (rough like sandpaper ) surfaces of the leaf.

Habit: Small shrub or epiphytic climber with clasping roots to 10m. Common in lowland and hill forests. A common understorey bird fig.

Large leaves 10-30 cm but up to 40cm long by 3-10cm wide with a rough surface and scalloped or toothed edges. The leaves are distichous and asymmetric with a short petiole up to 0.6cm long with 4-9 pairs of steeply ascending prominent side veins. There may be a  poorly defined  lobe or auricle at the base not as sharply distinct as in F. hemsleyana.

Sex: Dioecious.

Figs: Tiny figs (0.6-0.8cm) grow in dense crowds on the trunk or branches. The figs hang from short peduncles up to 1cm long. Figs ripen green to white green to yellow to orange purple often in many different colours on the same branch.

Similar species:

  • hemsleyana leaves are generally symmetric (even not lopsided or asymmetric) with a very distinct auricle at the base on one side. The figs tend to grow in bunches on a trunk not along the branches as with F. scaberrima, and ripen orange together in one big bang.
  • obscura has larger figs generally c. 1 cm+ compared with under 1 cm for F. scaberrima and has conspicuous hairs on the leafy twigs and on the figs.
  • According to Berg in East Kalimantan there are records of plants intermediate between scaberrima and F. obscura with very small figs. See Ferry Slik’s website for photos

Distribution: Common in lowland and hill forests throughout Borneo and on Kinabalu up to 1500m (Beaman 2004).

Range: Thailand, Malaya, Sumatra, Java, Philippines, Sulawesi.

Ecology: Both F. obscura and F. scaberrima have prominent glands on the underside of the leaf particularly at the base of the veins.  The fig fruits are also covered in prominent white dots which are also known to be glands that produce food eaten by ants.

Maschwitz on Ficus scaberrima (1994)

In a 1994 Malayan Nature Journal article Maschwitz et al (1994) Ficus obscura a non specific ant plant, Maschwitz et al described how Ficus scaberrima (the current name for the same fig plant) spontaneously formed slits in the hollow twigs which were used for housing by 8 different species of ants. Over 30 species of Bornean figs have hollow twigs but Ficus scaberrima is only fig known to provide entrances into the twigs.

L.1599360 Silam SACBERRIMA.jpg


Taxonomy: Corner (1965) recorded F. scaberrima as a subspecies of F. obscura subspecies “bornensis”. In Berg (2005) subspecies pisifera and borneensis were raised to a separate species F. pisifera. In Berg Flora of Thailand( 2011) F. pisifera was renamed F. scaberrima the original name given to it  when this plant was first described, following the priority rule of taxonomic nomenclature i.e. Berg made a mistake in 2005 which was rectified in 2011. See page 550 in Berg & Pattharahirantricin (2011) Flora of Thailand.