The photo shows the interior of a male fig filled with gall flowers. The exit holes in some of the gall flowers shows that the fig wasps  obviously started to emerge from the gall flowers but then halted and the majority died inside the gall flowers.


This is best done by cutting a section through a mature fruit and examining the contents . The photos in this article are of Ficus cumingii figs collected and photographed by Chun Xing Wong of 1Stop Borneo Wildlife at Tawau in Sabah.

Two thirds of Borneo’s wild figs are dioecious. This means that male trees and female trees grow separately.

All the notes in this article refer to dioecious figs only. 

Male figs contain gall flowers which act as brood chambers for fig wasps plus pollen bearing anthers.

Ripe male figs do not contain seeds but usually contain evidence of fig wasps dead or alive.

Female figs  contain female flowers which produce seeds. Female flowers hardly ever contain fig wasps.

Below are some links to photos of dioecious male figs where the male anthers can be seen more clearly;

Ficus lepicarpa male

Ficus treubii male

Ficus fistulosa male and female figs compared

Ficus satterthwaitei male


Because it is very important to understanding and manipulating fig ecology !

In ecological terms male figs produce edible insects (fig wasps) but not edible fruit. Female figs produce edible fruit (figs) and seeds but not insects.

With wild fig trees the the numbers of each sex are usually roughly equal. We can assume then that the ripe seeds from any female dioecious fig will contain equal numbers of male and female seeds and any fig seed collection will be roughly half male and half female. As far as we are aware there are no external differences between male and female seeds (Although male and female dioecious figs often differ externally)

Imagine however that you have spent many years  developing a Ficus research orchard or a plant nursery for reforestation. Your stock has come from a variety of sources but you have  used cuttings or marcots (not seeds)  to increase your stock. Marcots and cuttings are clones of the parent plant. Therefore if the marcot came from a male plant all the offspring will be male. With rare figs all your stock might be a clone of a single plant. Assume that  you have planted 100 clones from one rare male fig plant.

Ten years later your rare fig trees start producing figs but if there is no female fig of the same species within wasp dispersal distance,  all your figs will be barren. Not only can your male  figs not breed, they are  useless ecologically  and will not even produce fig wasps.

In summary, when propagating dioecious figs from cuttings or marcots record not only the species but the sex of the parent fig plant and ensure that you balance the number of males and females propagated. This advice  does NOT apply to monoecious fig species  which are bisexual. Monoecious bisexual figs in Borneo include all the stranglers in Section Conosycea e.g Ficus microcarpa , Ficus benjamina  and all the tall fig trees in Section Oreosycea eg Ficus callosa, F. albipila.  All other species ( excluding F. racemosa) are dioecious.