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Publication #ENH409

Ficus aurea: Strangler Fig1

Edward F. Gilman and Dennis G. Watson2

Introduction

Often starting out as an epiphyte nestled in the limbs of another tree, the native Strangler Fig is vine-like while young, later strangling its host with heavy aerial roots and eventually becoming a self-supporting, independent tree. Not recommended for small landscapes, Strangler Fig grows quickly and can reach 60 feet in height with an almost equal spread. The broad, spreading, lower limbs are festooned with secondary roots which create many slim but rigid trunks once they reach the ground and take hold. They become a maintenance headache as these roots need to be removed to keep a neat-looking landscape. The shiny, thick, dark green leaves create dense shade and the surface roots add to the problem of maintaining a lawn beneath this massive tree. The fruit drops and makes a mess beneath the tree.

Figure 1. 

Mature Ficus aurea: Strangler Fig


Credit:

Ed Gilman


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

General Information

Scientific name: Ficus aurea
Pronunciation: FYE-kuss AR-ee-uh
Common name(s): Strangler Fig, Golden Fig
Family: Moraceae
USDA hardiness zones: 10B through 11 (Fig. 2)
Origin: native to North America
Invasive potential: weedy native
Uses: indoors; reclamation; Bonsai
Availability: not native to North America

Figure 2. 

Range


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Description

Height: 50 to 60 feet
Spread: 50 to 70 feet
Crown uniformity: irregular
Crown shape: spreading, round
Crown density: dense
Growth rate: fast
Texture: coarse

Foliage

Leaf arrangement: alternate (Fig. 3)
Leaf type: simple
Leaf margin: undulate, entire
Leaf shape: ovate, elliptic (oval)
Leaf venation: pinnate
Leaf type and persistence: evergreen, broadleaf evergreen
Leaf blade length: 4 to 8 inches
Leaf color: green
Fall color: no color change
Fall characteristic: not showy

Figure 3. 

Foliage


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Flower

Flower color: unknown
Flower characteristics: not showy

Fruit

Fruit shape: oval, round
Fruit length: less than .5 inch
Fruit covering: fleshy
Fruit color: green, yellow
Fruit characteristics: does not attract wildlife; not showy; fruit/leaves a litter problem

Trunk and Branches

Trunk/bark/branches: branches droop; showy; typically one trunk; thorns
Pruning requirement: needed for strong structure
Breakage: resistant
Current year twig color: green
Current year twig thickness: medium
Wood specific gravity: unknown

Culture

Light requirement: full sun, partial sun or partial shade, shade tolerant
Soil tolerances: clay; sand; loam; alkaline; acidic; occasionally wet; well-drained
Drought tolerance: high
Aerosol salt tolerance: moderate

Other

Roots: can form large surface roots
Winter interest: no
Outstanding tree: no
Ozone sensitivity: unknown
Verticillium wilt susceptibility: unknown
Pest resistance: resistant to pests/diseases

Use and Management

Easily grown in full sun or partial shade, Strangler Fig can literally be planted, watered a few times, and forgotten. A variety of soils, including wet, will do, and Strangler Fig is moderately salt-tolerant. More often than not, large Strangler Figs were existing trees, not planted. Seeds germinate easily in the landscape allowing the tree to invade nearby land.

Propagation is by seed or cuttings.

Pests

Primary pests are aphids and scales followed by sooty mold.

Diseases

No diseases are of major concern.

Footnotes

1.

This document is ENH409, one of a series of the Environmental Horticulture, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date November 1993. Revised December 2006. Reviewed February 2014. Visit the EDIS website at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu.

2.

Edward F. Gilman, professor, Environmental Horticulture Department; Dennis G. Watson, associate professor, Agricultural Engineering Department, UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.


The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.