FICUS RIBES Reinw. ex Blume (1825) SECTION SYCOCARPUS
Latin; Ribes (Currant family) from the similarity of the figs to red currants.
Overview: Earth Figs of Borneo: Ficus ribes is one of 11 species in Section Sycocarpus found in Borneo which can be described as earth figs because some or all of the figs grow on stolons (surface roots) which start from the base of the tree, and can extend many meters under the leaf litter.
Habit: A small un-distinctive tree with very distinctive masses of small red figs spotted white hanging from the trunk on pendulous stolons or growing in cauliferous bunches directly on the trunk. Often the stolons emerge from the trunk at ground level and the figs may appear several meters on the soil surface away from the tree at ground level.
The closest relative to Ficus ribes in Borneo is Ficus stolonifera which is a Borneo endemic.
All photos in this article are courtesy of Shuai LIAO Collection # 20190369 photographed near the Mesilau Resort entrance road on Kinabalu.
Mesilau Access Road: This access road starts near the Kinabalu Golf Course on the Pinosuk Plateau just north of Kundasang. Following the 5 June 2015 earthquake on Kinabalu the road was closed but as of March 2020 the road has been re-opened and the Mesilau Resort is undergoing repairs.
TAXONOMIC NOTE: Berg (2005) see below made no reference to the existence of Ficus ribes in Borneo. During the Pleistocene ice ages large areas of Sumatra, Java and Borneo were joined by land (Sundaland) with continuous corridors of montane forest linking the mountains of these separate islands. It is likely that the existence of Ficus ribes on Kinabalu and in the Crocker Range is a relic of these past ice ages.