Ficus hispida

hairy fig tree


Ficus hispida

L.f. 1781

pronounced: FY-kuss HISS-pih-duh

(Moraceae — the fig family)


common name: hairy fig

native 4Ficus is the Latin word for ‘fig’; hispida is from hispidus, rough, shaggy, bristly.

This is not a strangling fig. It has the form of a shrub to a medium-sized tree, up to 10 m tall, and is found in southern China, Bhutan, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, New Guinea, Sikkim, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam and Australia (right across the ‘top end’, and down the Queensland coast to about Rockhampton.) The tree photographed is near the beginning of the walking track from Nelly to Horseshoe Bays, not far from the end of Mandalay Avenue.

The altitudinal range of the species is from sea level to about 800 m. It grows in well-developed lowland rainforest, gallery forest, and upland rainforest.

The bark is brownish; its exudate is either pale brown, or emerges a pinkish colour and turns pale brown on exposure.

The large leaves are simple and opposite. The leaf blades are about 15–35 cm long by 6–20 cm wide, rough and sandpapery on both the upper and the lower surfaces, but not as sandpapery as the Sandpaper Fig, Ficus opposita. The juvenile leaves, a paler green, are not as rough as the adult leaves. The petiole and the twigs produce a watery milky yellow exudate. Flat glands are usually visible on the underside of the leaf blade in the forks of the lateral veins and the midrib. Oil dots are visible with a hand lens. The stipules are about 6–10 mm long, slightly hairy and tapering to a point at the apex.

The tree is dioecious, and bears figs on leafless branchlets hanging down from the trunk and bigger branches. The figs are pedunculate, and depressed globular to almost discoid in shape, about 15–30 by 25–35 mm. They are eaten by the Double-eyed Fig Parrot, Cyclopsitta diophthalma, Australia’s smallest parrot. This is a rare bird, found only in three distinct populations down the east coast of Australia from Cape York Peninsula to northern New South Wales. These populations occur in rainforest areas (one is near Lake Eacham, on the Atherton Tableland), and, as far as I know, the birds do not visit Magnetic Island. In parts of Cape York Peninsula, the figs provide a good supply of food for feral pigs. As the figs are produced down to ground level, the pigs can easily commandeer the lower part of the crop.

Several varieties have been named, based on fruit size and colour; but these vary too continuously to justify the subdivisions. Parts of the tree have been used in folk medicine to treat such varied complaints as stomach-ache, boils, warts, fever, diarrhœa, and in aiding parturition.

In some Asian countries the timber is used to make furniture and packing cases.

The fertilizing wasp is a member of the Ceratosolen genus, C. solmsi, which is parisitized by another fig wasp, Apocrypta bakeri.


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 in Nelly Bay 2011, 2013 and Horseshoe Bay 2014
Page last updated 5th March 2019