Cases of manure contamination are still cropping up
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Friday, May 2

The mysterious fig

We have two fig plants in our greenhouse one of which is only a baby.
The larger of the two is Brown Turkey but the small one having been raised from a supermarket fig seed by a friend could be anything! The leaves are definitely different.
Figs are fascinating plants - they are flowering plants but never seem to have any flowers. The fruits seemingly just arrive from nowhere. How can that happen? A plant needs to grow a flower, however insignificant, before it can develop a fruit doesn't it? I've looked really closely but I've never actually seen a flower so a bit of research was needed.
I know from experience figs are tough plants - ours has survived total neglect and seemingly both plants have come back from the dead at least once. Regular readers may remember us renaming them Lazarus figs. The fact that they have been around for over 7,000 years - not our specific plants of course -  is testimony to their ability to survive.
Anyway I digress back to the mystery of the flowers. Apparently figs flower in a very secretive way. The tiny green pea like 'fruits' that develop often before any leaves appear aren't fruits at all. 
They are - take a deep breath Latin coming up - syconium. The best way I can think of explaining this is that it is like enclosing a bouquet of flowers inside a closed bag. What we think of as the fruit bud is a hollow container on the inside wall of which are lots and lots of tiny male and female flowers. I suppose it's sort of like a turned inside out strawberry where instead of seeds there are flowers. These flowers produce multiple fruits and the syconium swells to accommodate them as they grow.
The mystery doesn't end there. To produce fruit flowers need to be pollinated don't they? So how on earth are the flowers pollinated? In the case of the figs grown in our country the flowers aren't pollinated but they still go on to produce fruit. The difference is that no seeds are formed so these figs can only be propagated by cuttings. (Seems to further indicate that the plant Joe grew will be something other than a Brown Turkey).I've never actually eaten a shop bought fig but apparently they have a grittier texture due to the amount of seeds contained inside.

In other countries the flowers are pollinated by a special tiny wasp. Reading the way in which pollination takes place I am glad ours are unpollinated.


Advice is to removed any 'fruits' that are larger than a pea in September as these will not go on to overwinter and then ripen. The pea sized ones will produce ripe fruits. I'm guessing we should have removed the large fig in the photo above so we will have to wait and see what happens to it.

Figs are supposed to fruit better if the roots are restricted so the pot in which ours is growing is plenty big enough.


37 comments:

  1. Wow! Excellent informative post, Sue. Really fascinating stuff. I had no idea and, must admit, had never given much thought to how the fruit arrives. I do love fresh figs; if I see a small plant I might have to get one now, especially as they don't need to be outdoors to ripen and can be grown in a pot. :)

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  2. Hi Sue
    Greetings from Tolouse France. I am currently looking out of the window looking at three, twenty foot high fig trees. I think Peter would like me to prune them! And its raining!
    Roger

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    1. Bonjour, Roger, Aujourdhui le soleil brille quelquefois seulement un peu mais il brille!
      Enough of that - my French doesn't extend to "are they the figs that need pollinating by the fig wasp?"

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  3. Great post. I've never known much about figs before and they sound like fascinating plants :)

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  4. You learn something new every day. I hope that my little fig twig will go on to produce some fruit eventually.

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  5. I'm near Limoges and our fig tree already has hundreds of little figs budding away! We sometimes have three crops a year, depending on enough sunshine and enough rain at the right time. It's a fine balance as too much rain makes them split and rot, too little makes them small and the texture of a marrow. We need a lot of sun too, for sweetness. We know when they are ready to eat by the wasps feeding on them!

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    1. At least under cover in the greenhouse we can control moisture VM. They would survive outside but I think keeping them in the greenhouse just extends the growing season for them a little.

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  6. I have been to Turkey on holiday a couple of times, and I couldn't help noticing that fig trees are everywhere - presumably the "Brown Turkey" type. I love figs, and I do usually buy them if they look nice. I have a little fig tree too (Brown Turkey again!), but I think it is too small to produce any fruit just yet - about 2 foot high. I'm planning to keep mine in a pot, for the reason you mention.

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    1. We were quite surprised when we started to get figs, Mark. They seemed to come very soon after the Lazarus period. To be honest we bought it more as an ornamental plant - the figs have been a bonus.

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  7. I have seen huge fig trees planted in the ground but just wonder if the fruit ever ripens as there are so many of them. Interesting background info Sue - nature sure has lots of surprises up her sleeve.

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  8. I have ever read about fig artikel in an agricultural magazine. The 'fruit' is actually a flower bud that have never opened. We can notice the 'flesh' if the 'fruit' is splitted, so we can find stamens and ovary.

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    1. I did think od splitting one Endah but we have so few I didn't want to waste one.

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    2. Yeah...I won't to waste it, so I will split, notice and eat it. LOL...
      Here we also use the leaves for medicinal stuff and herbal tea.

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  9. Now I want to dissect one and find the flowers..

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    1. So do I but don;t want to waste the fig, Jessica and it would need dissecting before it is ripe. There would be just stamen and pistil. No petals would be needed.

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  10. Fascinating Figs! I just assumed they bloomed like most fruit. Thanks for sharing at Green Thumb Thursday!

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    1. I did too until I watched them growing. Rachel

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  11. This is really interesting Sue. I took most of my little figs off in the autumn, and I do have a few on there this year, so I'm hoping they will grow nicely. Incidentally the sap is really irritating to skin, I'm sure you knew that. I couldn't quite believe it was, so I didn't wear gloves. It really is! I've got some plants that I think are Brown Turkey, one Sultane and I'm sure one of them was Violette or something like that. My labels tend to mysteriously disappear, it's very annoying.

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    1. I didn't know about the skin irritant, CJ so thanks for that. There are hundreds of varieties if fig aren't there - do all yours have fruit?

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  12. some great detective work Sue has answered a few questions about our own Brown Turkey fig

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    1. They're fascinating plants, David

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  13. That's fascinating, and will be interesting to see if the fruit from the two taste different, assuming both fruit.

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    1. I'm not sure what will happen with the smaller plant, Janet. It may be a variety that needs pollinating which isn't going to happen.

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  14. wow that's amazing. I do love it when I get to learn new things. I don't have any fig trees but now I am wondering. Can they be grown outside Sue??

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    1. If you get the right variety you are supposed to be able to grow them outdoors, Tanya. They can be trained up a fence for a bit of protection, They need their roots restricting either in a pot of some other way to contain the roots. Ours did live outdoors for while.

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  15. This is really interesting to read about their internal flowering mechanisms. So each little section of a fig inside is an individual fruit? Don't think I've ever actually eaten a fresh fig, though now I'm slightly concerned about finding tiny wasps inside haha

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    1. You won;t find any from figs grown in this country Rozzie. It's a bit like a raspberry which is also a multiple fruit where each little berries bit is a separate fruit.

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  16. I wish I had done some homework on my fig before I bought it....I have planted mine out so hopefully I shall still get fruit. I do love the leaves and what a fascinating plant!!!xxx

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    1. It is fascinating, Snowbird.

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  17. I was thinking your baby size fig sure makes mine like a fetus size hehehe...

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    1. Maybe the baby looks larger that it is, Diana :)

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  18. I never grow fig before! Thanks for sharing the information! ;)

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    1. Do figs grow in your area, Malar?

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