“Two lowland species of strangling fig extend up to 1500 m on Kinabalu, F. sumatrana, with small leaves and small red figs, seems to be even more devastating at this altitude where it may send roots around neighbouring trees and strangle them as well as its original host.
Ficus stupenda with larger leaves and massive woody orange-red figs (5 x 4 cm), is limited to one main descending root and is, therefore, less destructive.
A third and endemic species in the Trigonobalanus forest is F. palaquiifolia; it seems to fruit rarely and is by no means satisfactorily known.” From Corner (1976)
According to Beaman’s 2004 plant list for Kinabalu F. sumatrana is the most common strangler found on Kinabalu with 13 collections in herbariums.
Ficus borneensis comes a close second with 12 collections in herbariums.
Both Beaman (2004) and Berg (2005) regard the Ficus sumatrana found on Kinabalu as Form B originally described as a separate species Ficus palaquiifolia by Corner in 1960 but sunk into Ficus sumatrana by Berg (2005) .
The TYPE collection of Ficus palaquiifolia collected at Bundu Tuhan by Cedric Carr for Corner on 27 May 1933.
Corner’s photographs of the two magnificent examples of Ficus sumatrana in the article above were taken in 1961-1964 during the two Royal Society Expeditions that Corner organized in order to plead for the conservation of the most diverse forests in the world. Corner got his wish and the Kinabalu Park was established. However subsequently large areas of the forest on the southern slopes of Kinabalu were de-gazetted and excise from the original park so that they could be used for copper mining, a golf course and vegetable farming with disastrous results.
Today there is very little pristine forest left below 1,500 m on the Kinabalu slopes above the towns of Kundasang and Ranau. Strangling figs such as Ficus sumatrana rarely grow above 1,500 m so this has resulted in local extinction for these amazing plants.