Description

The Common Fig, Ficus carica, is a deciduous tree or shrub in the family Moraceae grown for its edible fruits. The fig tree has numerous spreading branches and palmate leaves. The leaves are deeply lobed and thick with a rough upper surface and hairy lower surface. They have irregular teeth on the margins. The fig fruit is not technically a fruit, but a syconium, a flesh, hollow receptacle with tiny flowers on the inside walls. The fig is roughly oval or pear-shaped and can be yellow-green, bronze or dark purple in color. Fig trees can range in height from 3 to 9 m (10–30 ft) and can live for 50–75 years depending on conditions. Fig trees are believed to originate from Western Asia.

Uses

Fig fruits are consumed fresh or dried or may be processed to produce jams or fig paste.

Propagation


Basic requirements
Fig trees grow in both mild temperate climates and in the tropics, where it grows as an evergreen. The tree is not generally very cold hardy and new growth in Spring can be damaged by temperatures of -1°C (30.2°F). Fig trees can be successfully grown on many types of soil but will grow optimally in deep sandy-clay loams with a pH between 6 and 8. Very light soils are not conducive to fig production and should be amended prior to planting through the addition of organic matter. Fig trees should be planted in full sun. In the home landscape, planting the to the South or East of a building can help protect them during cold spells in winter.

Propagation
Fig trees are generally vegetatively propagated from cuttings which are rooted in a nursery. Cuttings should be taken from the previous years growth in winter when the tree is dormant and should be 25 to 30 cm (10-12 in) in length. The cuttings should be severed at the nodes and planted in prepared nursery beds or pots to the tips to allow a strong root system to develop before transplanting. The rooted cuttings should be ready for transplant the following winter.

Transplanting
Fig trees are traditionally planted as dormant rooted cuttings in winter or early spring. A hole should be dug that is deeper and wider than the existing root system as the cuttings perform well if planted a few inches deeper than in the nursery. Position the tree at the correct depth and carefully crumble the soil around the roots, tamping gently several times as the hole is filled. The newly planted tree should be watered to help settle the soil around the roots. It is not necessary to fertilize fig at time of planting. Once planted, the tree should be cut back by about 1/3 to counteract the effect of root loss during transplanting. If planting more than one tree, they should be positioned at least 6 m (20 ft) apart.

General care and maintenance
Figs are typically grown as rain-fed trees in Mediterranean climates but the trees grow best when they have access to constant moisture as water stress can cause early leaf drop. Soil moisture can be conserved by mulching around the trees. Organic mulches also have the benefit of providing the tree with nutrients. Fig trees do benefit from the addition of fertilizer and the type and amount varies with the variety being grown.

Pruning
In sub-tropical areas, figs are commonly grown as a single trunk tree, however, in more temperate climates, it is common for fig to exist as a multi-trunked vase-shaped trees. This is encouraged through pruning to three or four primary branches from the trunk and two to three secondary branches stemming from the primary branches. For the first few years, fig trees are pruned severely but after the shape has been formed pruning is limited to the removal of branches which are growing upright, touching the ground or those interfering with the growth of other branches.

Diseases

Alternaria rot (Surface mold) Fungi Alternaria spp.
Cladosporium herbarum
Ulocladium altum

Symptoms

Small, olive-green specks or sunken yellow-olive lesions covered in green spores on fruit; water-soaked areas on fruit surface where figs touch;

Comments

Fungi over winter in plant debris. C. herbarum usually more common on green fruit, Alternaria spp. primarily a problem on ripe fruit.

Management

Rot can be minimized by picking fruit before it becomes overripe; reducing dust in orchards may also help to reduce the incidence of rot.

Aspergillus rot Fungi Aspergillus spp.

Symptoms

Internal tissue of figs bright yellow in color; part or all of the interior turned to powdery mass of spores.

Comments

Disease emergence favors water-stressed trees.

Management

Avoid stressing trees by providing adequate irrigation; reducing dust in the orchard may help to reduce incidence of rots.

Botrytis limb blight Fungus Botrytis cinerea

Symptoms

Cankers above and below fruit; shoots dying back; buff colored spores on shoots in late winter or early spring; blighted shoots; foliage on infected shoots wilting and turning light green or brown.

Comments

Disease emergence favors wet, cool springs.

Management

Infected areas of trees should be pruned out beginning just below the canker.

Fig blister mites Arachnid Aceria ficus

Symptoms

Blisters on surface of leaves which cause leaves to be russetted; twigs may be stunted and leaves may drop from trees.

Comments

Blister mites transmit fig mosaic virus; mites undergo several generations per year.

Management

Applications of hoticultural oils or sulfur sprays are effective at controlling blister mites and should be applied if the mites were a problem the previous year; chemical treatments should be applied before bloom.

Fig mosaic Virus Fig mosaic virus (FMV)

Symptoms

Yellow spots and mottling on foliage; margins of spots are diffuse and blend gradually back into the green of the leaf; spots may be distributed uniformly across the leaf surface or as irregular patches; mature lesions develop a brown-red band around their margin.

Comments

Transmitted by fig mites or by grafting from infected tree.

Management

Do not collect propagation material from any trees showing symptoms of disease; controlling fig mites may help to reduce incidence of disease.

Fig rust Fungus Cerotelium fici (earlier Physopella fici)

Symptoms

The first symptom appears as small, yellowish spots on the upper surface of leaves which later enlarge and become reddish brown in color. As the disease progress the numerous spots may appear on leaves. The lower surface of the lesions shows reddish-brown color and have a slightly raised, blister-like appearance. Severely infected leaves may turn yellow or brown and fall off prematurely.

Comments

The pathogen spreads by splashing water.

Management

Collect and burn the fallen leaves and other plant debris. Avoid overhead application of water and leaf wetting. Provide proper air circulation around the plant. Keep the plant healthy by providing proper mulching and fertilizers. If the disease is sever, spray suitable fungicides.

June beetle (fig beetle or fig eater) Insect Cotinis nitida

Symptoms

Holes in fruit; staining of fruit surface from insect excrement; adult insect is a moderate sized green beetle reaching approx. 3 cm (1.2 in in length) which has a distinct horn on its head; larvae are cream colored grubs with a brown head.

Comments

Larvae pupate in cells in the soil in late spring; insect undergoes one generation per year.

Management

Remove dead leaves and other crop debris from the orchard floor; allowing the orchard floor to dry out and harden prevents the adults emerging in the Spring; saturating the soil with water for a period of 2 days will kill off any eggs and larvae.

Smut Fungi Aspergillus spp.

Symptoms

Internal sections of fruit or entire inside of fruit discolored; infected areas turn black and are covered with powdery black spores.

Comments

Fungus is transferred to fruit by some species of fly, thrips and beetle; fig varieties with smaller ostioles (pores) on the fruit are less susceptible to the disease than those with large ostioles.

Management

Remove all old fruit an crop debris from orchard; try to reduce dust around trees.

References

CABI Crop Protection Compendium. (2012). Ficus caricadatasheet. Available at: http://www.cabi.org/cpc/datasheet/24078. [Accessed 03 December 14]. Paid subscription required.

Himelrick, D. G. (1999). Fig production guide. Alabama Cooperative Extension System. Available at: http://www.aces.edu/pubs/docs/A/ANR-1.... [Accessed 03 December 14]. Free to access.

Kamas, J., Nesbitt, M. & Stein, L. (2010). Figs. Texas AgriLife Extension. Available at: http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/fr.... [Accessed 03 December 14]. Free to access.

Morton, J. (1987). Fig. p. 47–50. In: Fruits of warm climates. Julia F. Morton, Miami, FL. Available at: http://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/mo.... [Accessed 03 December 14]. Free to access.