Yellow-rumped Flowerpecker Prionochilus xanthopygius, a common Bornean endemic feeding on the ripe fig fruit of Ficus deltoidea.

MISTLETOE FIG  Ficus deltoidea Jack (1822)                 SECTION: FICUS

 Greek: triangular shaped – from the Greek letter DELTA,  in reference to the leaf.

Malay: mas kotek (gold feather), sempit sempit (narrow) referring to the use of the leaf extract in feminine medicine as a restorative after giving birth.

 Habit: Based on the number of herbarium collections held at Leiden, this is Borneo’s most common fig.

A small epiphytic shrub usually seen high up in the canopy growing in sky gardens with other epiphytes. The distinctive triangular leaves with black glands underneath are easily recognized when fallen.

Also a common ground shrub in open areas especially in poor soils e.g. kerangas or ridge tops and rocky slopes. On Kinabalu replaced by Ficus oleifolia on rocky slopes above c. 1,500 m.

Often cultivated as an ornamental or medicinal pot plant.

 Fig: The small figs (0.4-1.5 cm) ripen yellow green with a bright red ostiole.

Seeds: As with F. oleifolia there are only a few (1 to 5 ) relatively large seeds (2-4 mm) within each female fig fruit. In general most fig seeds are tiny, 1-2 mm in width. So F. oleifolia and F. deltoidea (despite the relatively small fruit)  produce the largest seeds of any fig in Borneo. The large seeds indicate a significant  (currently unknown) difference in ecology between F. deltoidea/ F. oleifolia and other figs.

Sex: Dioecious


Corner (1969) The Complex of Ficus deltoidea described and illustrated 13 varieties. More recently Berg (2005)  split F. deltoidea into two subspecies both of which are quite variable

(1) Ficus deltoidea Subspecies: deltoidea:  Usually but not always epiphytic. Distinctive triangular  or heart shaped (oblanceolate) leaves, as illustrated at the top of this article.

(2) Ficus deltoidea  Subspecies: motleyana as illustrated in King 1887.

Ficus deltoidea var motleyana.jpgFicus deltoidea sub-species motleyana is usually found as a ground shrub to 7m in peat swamp/kerangas forest. Leaf shape usually elliptic to oblong. F. d. motleyana at Bako

Note that the leaf shape of both subspecies can be very varied and both types of leaves may occur on the same plant as illustrated by the Ficus deltoidea on the summit of Bukit Patoi in Brunei.. Both forms have distinctive black glands at the junction of the major veins on the underside of the leaf.

 Similar Species: The form on Kinabalu has been confused with F. oleifolia.

Medicinal Uses:  Locals believe both leaves and fruit have powerful medicinal properties. Herbal extracts are sold commercially. Studies by Abdullah (2006) and Mohamed (2008) found that extracts contained anti-fungal properties and accelerated wound healing.

 Distribution in Borneo: Common in forested areas throughout Borneo from the coast to 2,000m. Cultivated pot plants  are often sold in local markets.

Range: Subspecies: deltoidea; Thailand to Sulawesi ansd the Moluccas.

Subspecies: motleyana: Malaya, Sumatra, Java, Borneo Sulawesi.