Ficus benjamina, F. stricta and F. subcordata are very similar  closely related figs found throughout Borneo. All 3 species have very plain leaves with  very faint side veins that run in parallel rows (penniveined).

As a group these 3 related species are easy to tell apart from other strangling figs. But how can you split them from each other  ?

Ficus benjamina  grows wild along forested rivers and in addition imported varieties from Singapore and Taiwan are often grown around towns  and used in landscaping projects. Ficus benjamina has the smallest leaves and figs.

Ficus stricta has medium sized leaves and figs and is common in forested areas.

Ficus subcordata has both the largest figs and leaves  and is a relatively uncommon forest strangler.

Based on a fruiting fig collected by Dr Zainal Zahari Zainuddin of the Sabah Ficus Germplasm Centre  at Tabin on 19 June 2021 illustrated in the photographs below we  show  how to determine which of the 3 species it most closely resembles.

Note that once the DNA of these 3 species has been checked  there may well be some changes in the existing taxonomy.


All data from Berg & Corner (2005) Ficus in Flora Malesiana Vol.17. Part 2.

Fig diameters are for dry herbarium collections. Multiply by 1.6 for fresh size

Benjamina Stricta Subcordata Tabin fig
Leaf Appearance Small Medium Large Medium
Leaf length cm 2 -14 8 -14 6 – 20 12.0 cm
Leaf width cm 1.5 – 6 3.5 – 6 2.5 – 9 5.0 cm
Stipule length cm 0.5 – 2 0.7- 3 1 – 4 1.0 cm
Fig size diam. cm 0.5 -1.5 0.8 – 1.8 1.2 – 4 2.0 cm
Basal bracts length mm 0.5-3 mm 3-10 mm 2-5 mm 5 mm

According to Berg (2005) Ficus stricta differs from Ficus benjamina and Ficus subcordata by the relatively large basal bracts which are unequal in size and shape. The Tabin fig illustrated in this article has measurements that overlap with both Ficus subcordata and Ficus benjamina as listed above. However based on the relatively large basal bracts it is most likely  to be Ficus stricta.