ABOVE: Ficus albipila growing in the Kebun Raya, Bogor, Java (Bogor Botanic Garden)  illustrated in Koorders et Valeton (1918) Atlas der Baumarten von Java when the tree was c. 63 years old. The text indicates that the tree illustrated is a living individual drawn from life.

This same tree was  photographed by E J H  Corner  (below) in 1958  when the tree was just over 100 years old.

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The buttresses of a Ficus albipila growing in the Kebun Raya at Bogor in Java photographed by  E JH. Corner in 1958. Corner speculated that this tree had most likely originally  been brought to Bogor as a seedling by J E Teijsman in 1855-57 from Palembang in Sumatra, where the type collection had been made.

Our current knowledge of the figs of Borneo is based on the pioneering work of many botanists but the most important Ficus  botanist was undoubtedly Professor E J H Corner who worked for the Singapore Botanic Gardens between 1929 and 1945. Corner later became a Professor of Tropical Botany at the University of Cambridge where he continued his work on the figs of S E Asia. Corner was originally hired by the SBG as a mycologist (specialist in fungi)  but his discovery of a single individual of Ficus albipila  in Singapore which he could not identify, encouraged him to become a botanist specialising in tree identification.

“In 1932, when I was recording the last patch of original swamp forest in the west of Singapore island as it was being felled (Corner, 1978b), I met a single and fertile tree of this great fig. No botanical name or dried specimen could be found for identification; yet, I could not believe that it was a new species from Singapore. Later in that year, during a voyage up the east coast of Malaya with W. Birtwistle, Director of Fisheries, I found another tree of the same kind at Juara Bay on Tioman Island.” Text from Corner (1985) Essays on Ficus.

Corner could find no matching specimen in the Singapore Herbarium and his F. albipila  leaves remained unidentified  for  23 years until  Corner eventually managed to match them in 1955 with the TYPE material collected by Teijsmann in Sumatra in 1855-57, stored in the Utrecht Herbarium in the Netherlands. These dried herbarium collections can be viewed on-line on the NATURALIS website. http://bioportal.naturalis.nl/

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The TYPE collection of Ficus albipila first collected at Palembang Sumatra by the Dutch botanist J E Teijsman in 1855-57.

Corner’s single Singapore record is the only known evidence of Ficus albipila  growing wild in Singapore.

According to Chong et al (2009)  Checklist of the Vascular Flora of Singapore Ficus albipila is one of 9 Ficus species originally native to Singapore which have become extinct.

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The Bogor Ficus albipila  is now c. 163 years old and still going strong. It has teamed up with an adjacent Shorea leprosula dipterocarp  (also from Sumatra) and the  happy couple are known as  the Pohon Jodoh or Couple tree.

The labels on the Pohon Jodoh trees at Bogor say that the two trees were planted together in 1866.  As of 2018  this would make the two trees only 152 years old.  However according to Corner;

“Those who have strolled through the Kebun Raya at Bogor or, as it used to be called, the Buitenzorg Botanical Garden, may have been halted by the vast buttresses of a lofty tree with smooth grey trunk, labelled “Ficus albipila VIII. b. 12″ In fact I had named it in 1958, for it had been labeled in error F. cordifolia Bl, and so it was listed in previous catalogues of the Garden It is, also, the type tree of F. microtricherinos Backer, which is a complicated synonym (Corner. 1960). The source of that tree is unknown but, considering its age and the industry of the botanical collector J. E. Teijsmann, I think it may have been brought by him from Sumatra around 1855-57, as a seed or sapling; the original type specimens of the species were collected by him near Palembang, Sumatra. It is the only tree of its species known in cultivation, unless there is another in the Botanical Garden at Sibolangit in Sumatra, where J. A. Lörzing collected specimens in 1919.” Text from Corner (1985) Essays on Ficus