Ficus racemosa

cluster fig foliage


Ficus racemosa

L. 1753

pronounced: FY-kuss rass-ee-MOH-suh

(Moraceae — the fig family)

synonym — Ficus glomerata

Roxb. 1798

pronounced: FY-kuss glom-er-AH-tuh

common names: cluster fig, goolar fig

native 4Ficus is the Latin word for ‘fig’; racemosa is from the Latin racemosus, full of clusters. In the synonym, glomerata is from glomeratus, gathered into a ball. The second of the common names comes from the Hindi word goolar. This tree is unusual in that its figs grow in clusters, close to the trunk. The tree photographed is in the grounds of the Magnetic Island State School, close to the footpath on Sooning Street, Nelly Bay.

The tree can grow up to 30 m tall, and is monoecious. It usually has a crooked trunk and a spreading canopy. Unlike the banyan, it has no aerial roots. The bark is greyish brown, and smooth. The branchlets, young leaf blades and figs are often pubescent. The stipules are ovate-lanceolate, 1.5 – 2 cm, membranous, pubescent. The leaves are alternate, the petiole 2 – 3 cm; the leaf blade obovate-elliptic, elliptic, or narrowly elliptic, 10 – 14 by 3 – 4.5 (– 7) cm, more-or-less leathery, the lower surface pale green, pubescent when young, the upper surface dark green and glabrous, the base cuneate to obtuse, the margin entire, the apex acuminate to obtuse. There are 2 basal lateral veins, and 4 – 8 secondary veins on each side of the mid-vein.

The figs are in a tumour-like cluster on short branchlets of old stem, occasionally axillary on leafy shoots or on older leafless branchlets, paired, reddish orange when mature, pear-shaped, 2 – 2.5 cm in diameter, basally attenuated into a stalk, the apical pore navel-like and flat. The male and female flowers are within the same fig. The trees prefer moist areas, beside rivers and streams, and occasionally in streams. The pollinator wasp is Ceratosolen nigriscapus.

The goolar fig, often under its Sanskrit name of udumbara, is given prominence in Hinduism and Buddhism as a means of acquiring prosperity and vanquishing foes. There are a number of references to it in the scriptures of these faiths. According to Ayurveda medicine the roots are useful in treating hydrophobia, and the bark for gynaecological disorders, whereas the fruits are astringent to the bowels, styptic, and useful in the treatment of many diseases including urinary discharges, leprosy and intestinal worms. According to the Unani system, the leaves are astringent to the bowels and useful in treating bronchitis, whereas the fruits are useful in the treatment of a dry cough, loss of voice, diseases of the kidney and spleen; the bark is useful for treating asthma and piles; the latex is applied externally on chronic infected wounds to relieve the pain and assist the healing; and the tender leaf buds are applied to the skin, in the form of a paste, to improve the complexion. In the Indian subcontinent, the figs are traditionally used by the children as playthings. They can be used to join thin sticks together to make interesting shapes. The tree can often be seen standing alone in agricultural areas, being the only species that the loggers do not cut: the wood is not considered useful either for construction or for firewood, and it also destroys the chain-saws! The tree is said to be an important food source for many bird and mammal species (although not many figs seem to be eaten by the Magnetic Island fauna), and serves as a food plant for the caterpillars of the Two-brand Crow butterfly, Euploea sylvester, of northern Australia, and the moth Asota caricae.

The timber of this tree has no commercial value. It is reported that the indigenous inhabitants sometimes made dugout canoes from the trunks.
This plant is one of those collected in 1770 by Banks and Solander during the voyage of the Endeavour. It was collected at the Endeavour River (Cooktown).


Information about medicinal qualities of plants, or about their use as medicines, is for interest only, and is not intended to be used as a guide for the treatment of medical conditions.


Photographs taken at Nelly Bay 2010
Page last updated 31st December 2018