An unripe male Ficus pumila fig growing in Pontianak in West Kalimantan. Like 2/3 of Borneo’s figs Ficus pumila is dioecious meaning that plants are either male or female. Although this fig is unripe the extraordinarily long filaments (stalks) which support the pollen bearing anthers of the male flowers (stamens) are clearly visible. In male figs the gall flowers act as brood chambers for fig wasps and do not produce seeds. Each gall flower contains a single male or female developing fig wasp. Both sexes emerge at the same time and after mating leave the fig via the ostiole.
(1) The reddish gall flowers which contain both male and female fig wasps are at the far end of the fig, away from the ostiole or exit hole.
(2) When the adult fig wasps emerge from the red gall flowers the wasps will have to crawl past a long narrow corridor of anthers bearing pollen before they reach the ostiole.
(3) Inevitably some of this pollen will brush off on the fig wasps before they exit.
(4) After exiting this male fig the winged female wasps will carry the pollen to a nearby receptive fig which could be either male or female. If it is a female fig they will look for gall flowers in which to lay their eggs and whilst doing so the pollen on their bodies will attach to the receptive female stigma. As there are no gall flowers inside the female figs the eggs will never be laid and the female will die inside the female fig. However her legacy will live on in the seeds resulting from the pollination of the female flowers.
(5) After leaving the male fig where she hatched , if the female wasps arrives at a a receptive male fig she will lay her fertile eggs inside the each of the gall flowers and die. The pollen she carries on her body will be wasted.
(6) The male figs that hatched from the male fig are wingless and will never leave the male fig. After exiting through the ostiole they will wander around the external surface of the fig to act as decoys for predators a such as ants and birds attracted by the exit of the female wasps.
All photos by Ripin Forestry.