Ficus oleifolia  growing on ultramafic soil at Bukit Hampuan on the edge of Kinabalu Park in Sabah.

Suzana Sabran  of the Sandakan Herbarium shows the scale.

Ficus oleifolia is the most common fig at higher levels on Kinabalu and is common on all soils and all habitats on the mountain.

Bukit Hampuan comprises 1,253 ha of protected forest reserve just north of Ranau town and south of the Kinabalu Park.

Bukit Hampuan is  in the centre of the Malaysian state of Sabah in N. Borneo.

In geological terms Bukit Hampuan is a an edaphic island, an isolated area of heavily mineralised  ultramafic soils  rich in heavy metals including magnesium and  nickel.

On the NW edge of Bukit Hampuan is a giant pit filled with toxic blue water  which was previously the Mamut copper mine.

The Hampuan soil is too toxic  for most plants. Compared with Borneo’s magnificent lowland forests  the trees are small and  stunted  and plant diversity is low. However the Hampuan flora is rich in specialized endemics  such as rare species of orchids and Nepenthes.

Kinabalu itself is the world centre of Ficus diversity but the areas of ultramafic soil on the slopes of Kinabalu are not rich in figs and there are no figs which are exclusively found on ultramafic soil in Borneo.

According to Beaman’s Kinabalu plant list around 40 species of Bornean figs have been recorded from ultramafic soils but only a very few of these are common and none grow only on ultramafic soils.


The most common species on ultramafic soils on Kinabalu are Ficus oleifolia,  F. inaequipetiolata, F. montana, F. tengerensis, F. tarennifolia, F. eumorpha, F. pellucidopunctata, F. detonsa, F. trichocarpa and F. recurva.

Thanks to Suzana Sabran of the Sandakan Herbarium for photos and information.

Ficus oleifolia  growing on ultramafic soil at Bukit Hampuan on the edge of Kinabalu Park in Sabah

This green lake fills what used to be the Mamut copper mine on the southern slopes of Kinabalu. The mine was active between 1975-1999. The water filling the old mine is toxic. Note that much of the surrounding soil is still bare due to the very poor toxic soil. For further information on the plants of Ultramafic soils in Sabah see the links below;

Chung et al (2013) Insect Diversity of Bukit Hampuan FR Sabah

van der Ent (2016) Vegetation on Ultramafic edaphic islands in Kinabalu Park

van der Ent (2011) The Ecology of Ultramafic areas in Sabah