ABOVE: Ficus uniglandulosa TYPE collection from Penang (1822) held by the Herbarium of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh.

09 TYPE Edinburgh Uniglandulosa FLAKING PERIDERM WEB .jpg
A closeup of a portion of the Ficus uniglandulosa TYPE held at RBG Edinburgh. Note (1)  the flaking periderm (surface bark) a characteristic of herbarium collections and (2) The single waxy gland on the RHS of the base of the mid-vein after which this fig was named by Wallich (1848)

UNIGLANDULOSA Ficus uniglandulosa Wall ex Miq (1884)


Latin: Single gland referring to the single gland on one side of the base of the mid-vein. Most Section Sycidium figs have two glands one on each side of the mid-vein and may have additional glands at the base of some of the side veins.

Habit: A floppy epiphytic climber, common throughout the hills of Borneo up to 2,300 m on Kinabalu. May also grow as a shrub on rocks or as a small tree.

Leaves: Medium sized 8-20 cm (but up to 28 cm) long by 3- 7 cm wide with a smooth glossy upper surface. The leaves grow in a flat plane as typical of nearly all the Section Sycidium figs. Normally 3-6 side veins with relatively indistinct basal veins which run close to the edge of the leaf. Note that the venation can be extremely variable . See Berg’s (2005) text below. The leaves are normally symmetric with no lobes or auricles at the base

Figs: 0.6-0.8 cm have short stipes (necks) up to 0.3 cm long. Female figs ripen bright orange to crimson and attract many species of birds especially bulbuls and flowerpeckers.

Sex: Monoecious. Male figs ripen pale yellow not red and are slightly larger than female figs with a sunken nipple surrounding the ostiole.

Similar Species:

  • The flaky bark of herbarium collections immediately distinguishes this fig.
  • The lack of any lobe or auricle on the leaf and the relatively few side veins for Section Sycidium, means that in the field this fig can only be confused with two figs;
  • Ficus parietalis  Ficus parietalis has long well defined  basal veins distant from the leaf margin compared with poorly defined short basal veins that follow the margin of F. uniglandulosa.
  • Ficus uniglandulosa has a prominent mid-vein above whereas F. midotis mid-vein is flat or sunken. F. midotis has two glands at the base of the mid-vein not one.

Ecology: Ripe female figs attract hordes of small birds especially bulbuls and flowerpeckers. F. uniglandulosa appears to have evolved a mutualistic relationship with ants which use the flaky bark to build domatia on the undersides of the leaves.

Borneo: According to collections held at Leiden NATURALIS this is Borneo’s second commonest fig (after Ficus deltoidea) According to Beaman & Anderson (2004) this is the second most common fig on Kinabalu (after Ficus oleifolia)

The reports of relative abundance are not borne out by my recent personal experience- which indicates that this fig is very scarce in most areas. F. uniglandulosa is most common in virgin hill forest and is rarely found in secondary or disturbed forests. Also F. uniglandulosa is nearly always epiphytic and therefore is rarely recorded by casual observation at ground level. Professional botanical collectors checking the canopy of every tree in a plot are likely to be more successful.

Range: Myanmar south to the Malay Peninsula (TYPE from Penang), Sumatra and Borneo. In the Philippines restricted to Mindanao, Palawan and the Sulu archipelago. No records from Singapore

Berg (2005) Ficus uniglandulosa WEB.jpg

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02 IMG_2767.JPG

Ficus uniglandulosa Mindanao Philippines.jpg
Collection from Zamboanga on the island of Mindanao in the Philippines. The Filipino distribution indicates that F. uniglandulosa reached the  southern Philippines from Borneo via two routes (1) Sulu islands and  (2) Kudat Peninsula and Palawan.