A lone Ficus virens on the Jeroco oil palm estate after clearance of old palms for replanting.
Strangling fig seedlings readily establish on oil palm trunks in the hollow cups left when the leaves are cut to harvest the bunches of fruit. However even strangling figs like F. virens cannot strangle palms because the pipes which transport fluids within the palm (xylem and phloem) occur throughout the palm trunk not just under the surface bark as with trees. Also normal trees need to establish new channels continuously and cannot stop growing in width every year. In contrast palm trunks remain the same width from juvenile stage. Thus trees which host strangling figs strangle themselves through expanding their trunk against the tight roots of the fig rather than being squeezed by the roots of the fig.
All photos by Joe Pan with thanks to Dr Zainal of the Sabah Ficus Germplasm Centre