WHITE-SPOTTED FIG Ficus albomaculata C.C. Berg (2004) SYCOCARPUS
Latin: albomaculata translates as “white spots” referring to the raised white lenticels on the surface of the fig fruit. Many dioecious figs have raised spots on the fig fruits.
Based on research at Lambir carried out by Rhett Harrison on Ficus rosulata it appears that these raised spots are glands which excrete an ant food to attract ants during periods when parasitic fig wasps are active. Once attracted by the ant food, the ants stay around to attack the parasitic fig wasps. When individual fruiting branches were protected from ants most of the ripening figs aborted after attacks by parasitic fig wasps.
Habit: Small tree typically growing in damp gullies next to rivers in the hills.
Leaf: The large leaves are spirally arranged and covered with white/brown silky hairs on both surfaces. There are 7-12 pairs of lateral veins.
ID: As mentioned by Berg in his paper describing this fig (below) Ficus albomaculata shares some similarities with Ficus virescens, a very rare fig of Kinabalu and the Crocker Range. In the future it may be found that these 2 species replace each other geographically with F. virescens confined to the hills of Sabah and F. albomaculata confined to hills south of the Sabah border. The similarities are;
- The bare branches rise upwards like a candelabra and end with a tuft of leaves in a whorl.
- The fig fruits look very similar both ripening yellow brown with prominent bracts around the ostiole.
- Both are rare figs often found in damp gullies next to streams in the hills.
However the leaves are quite different Ficus virescens has very large hairless leaves with cordate (heart-shaped) bases. The bases of the leaves of F. albomaculata are wedge shaped (cuneate) and the leaves are covered in silky hairs both above and below.
Fig Fruit: A small oblong fig up to 1.3 cm diameter. The surface is smooth with a ring of 5-6 hairy vertical bracts surrounding the ostiole (note that this description is similar to the fig fruits of F. virescens).
Distribution: Endemic to Borneo. Only 3 collections are known, 2 from Gunung Mulu in N. Sarawak and one from Bukit Baka in the hills of Central Kalimantan.
Taxonomy: Berg (2004) describes F. albomaculata