Ficus glumosa (PROTA)

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Plant Resources of Tropical Africa
Introduction
List of species


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distribution in Africa (wild)
1, flowering branch; 2, part of branch with bark. Redrawn and adapted by Achmad Satiri Nurhaman
leaves and young fruit (www.figewb.org, Iziko Museums of Cape Town)
leaves and young fruit (www.figewb.org, Iziko Museums of Cape Town)
stem (www.figewb.org, Iziko Museums of Cape Town)
branch with ripe fruits (www.figewb.org, Iziko Museums of Cape Town)

Ficus glumosa Delile


Protologue: Cent. pl. Voy. Méroé: 63 (1826).
Family: Moraceae
Chromosome number: 2n = 52

Synonyms

  • Ficus sonderi Miq. (1867).

Vernacular names

  • African rock fig, mountain fig (En).
  • Mkuyu (Sw).

Origin and geographic distribution

Ficus glumosa is widespread throughout most of tropical Africa, extending to western Saudi Arabia in the east and South Africa in the south.

Uses

The bark, rich in tannin, is used in central, eastern and southern Africa for tanning hides. In Kaokoland in Namibia it is said to be the most important tanning agent for leather, giving it a red colour favoured by the Himba people. The bark is also a source of a brick-red dye, popular in Mali (‘bogolan’ dyeing process), Sierra Leone (Koranko people) and Ghana for dyeing cloth and raffia. In some areas, e.g. Sudan, cloth is made from the bark. The bark also contains abundant sticky white latex which is used in Ghana like bird-lime to trap crickets. In Uganda it is chewed as chewing-gum and in West Africa the Tenda people use the latex for fastening arrowheads to their shaft. Young leaves are eaten as a vegetable (e.g. in soup in Ghana) and are browsed by cattle. The fruit is edible when fully ripe and said to be the most flavoursome of the wild figs in Senegal. The wood is light and used for firewood and charcoal. Sometimes trees are planted as a live fence or as windbreak.

Medicinal uses are numerous. In Côte d’Ivoire latex is applied to alleviate pain from sprains and latex diluted in water is used in the Central African Republic to treat diarrhoea. In Zimbabwe latex is dropped into the eyes against sore eyes. Powdered bark, mixed with latex, is used in Nigeria to plug carious teeth and in the Central African Republic a decoction of the bark is used as a mouthwash against toothache. A bark macerate is applied on the eyes of new born babies in Senegal (Casamanca) to prevent conjunctivitis. Tenda people apply pounded bark topically against headache. In East Africa pounded bark, soaked in water, is drunk against stomach disorders. In Tanzania a decoction of pounded bark is used to wash sores daily until recovery. In Senegal and Côte d’Ivoire the roots and fruits are used in preparations to cure female sterility.

Description

  • Shrub or small tree up to 10 m tall; outer bark flaking, inner bark exuding sticky white latex; leafy twigs glabrous or white hairy.
  • Leaves arranged spirally, simple and entire; stipules up to 1.5 cm long, falling off early; petiole up to 8 cm long; blade oblong, broadly elliptical, broadly ovate, obovate or almost circular, 2–19 cm × 1–13 cm, base cordate or rounded, apex acuminate to subobtuse, glabrous to densely hairy above, densely hairy below, lateral veins in 3–7 pairs, tertiary venation reticulate.
  • Inflorescence a fig, consisting of an urn-shaped receptacle with a narrow apical opening, the flowers enclosed within, figs solitary or in pairs in the leaf axils or just below, almost sessile, globose to ellipsoid, 1–1.5 cm in diameter, glabrous to densely tomentose, orange to red, at the fruiting stage often with darker spots.
  • Flowers unisexual, with 2–4 tepals; male flowers with one stamen; female flowers with 1-celled ovary and short or long style.
  • Fruit a drupe, 1-seeded, developing within the fig.

Other botanical information

Ficus comprises about 750 species, occurring in tropical and subtropical regions, with a few species in warm temperate regions. About 100 species occur in Africa, 500 in Asia and Australia, and 150 in America. Ficus glumosa belongs to subgenus Urostigma, section Galoglychia. Particularly the indumentum on its leaves varies strongly, usually being most dense in the southern part of its range and almost absent in north-eastern Africa. Ficus glumosa can easily be confused with Ficus stuhlmannii Warb., which is characterized by the more prominent tertiary venation of the lower leaf surface. The bark and leaves of several other species are used for tanning or as sources of red, brown or green dyes.

Ficus ilicina

Ficus ilicina (Sond.) Miq. (synonym: Ficus guerichiana Engl.) is a shrub or small tree up to 5 m tall, sometimes lianescent, with smooth but flaky bark, roots often plastered over rocks, elliptical, oblong or oblanceolate leaves 3–9 cm × 3–5 cm and globose figs, c. 1 cm in diameter, solitary or in pairs. It occurs on rocky places in dry areas in south-western Angola, Namibia and South Africa. Its bark is used for the tanning and dyeing of hides and the fruits are eaten.

Ficus cordata

The bark of Ficus cordata Thunb. is used in southern Africa for the tanning and dyeing of hides but this species is more important as an ornamental.

Ficus lutea

The bark of Ficus lutea Vahl is used in Madagascar to obtain red-ochre dyes for raffia and silk textiles, but its major use is also ornamental.

Ficus platyphylla and sycomorus

In Mali the barks of Ficus platyphylla Delile and Ficus sycomorus L. are dye sources for bogolan textiles giving red-ochre to brownish colours, but the former is more important for its latex, used in chewing gum and the latter for its fruits, cooked as a vegetable in soups or in couscous.

Growth and development

The pollination in the figs is effected by Elisabethiella glumosae wasps. These enter the fig via the osteole, a bract-covered apical pore. Once inside, they pollinate the female flowers and deposit their eggs in the ovaries. However, only the short-styled ovaries can be reached by the wasps, and these serve to hatch the larvae, while the seeds develop in the long-styled ovaries. Birds eat the fruits and probably disperse the seeds.

Ecology

Ficus glumosa occurs on rock outcrops and rocky slopes in dry areas, less often in riverine and open Brachystegia woodland, occasionally on termite mounds. It is found up to 2000 m altitude.

Propagation and planting

Ficus glumosa can be propagated by seed and cuttings.

Handling after harvest

To make a tanning liquor, the bark is finely chopped and soaked in water. The hides are then steeped in the liquid. In Mali bogolan techniques of dyeing often combine dyes from several species to increase the solidity of the colours. The barks of Ficus glumosa, Ficus platyphylla or Ficus sycomorus are finely chopped and boiled in water. The cloth is soaked in this dye and then dried in the sun. Then comes the ‘fixing dye’, a bath in a decoction of the leaves of Anogeissus leiocarpa (DC.) Guill. & Perr. The cloth is again left to dry in the sun. The ‘fixing bath’ and sun drying process are repeated three times at least, and then the cloth is soaked again in the first dye bath with Ficus bark and finally dried in the sun.

Genetic resources

Ficus glumosa is very widespread and although it is nowhere very common, it is not in danger of genetic erosion.

Prospects

Ficus glumosa is a multipurpose tree or shrub, particularly valuable in drier areas for its edible young leaves and ripe fruits. More research is needed for a better understanding of the dye and tannin properties of the bark and the numerous reported medicinal properties.

Major references

  • Arbonnier, M., 2004. Trees, shrubs and lianas of West African dry zones. CIRAD, Margraf Publishers Gmbh, MNHN, Paris, France. 573 pp.
  • Berg, C.C., 1991. Moraceae. In: Launert, E. & Pope, G.V. (Editors). Flora Zambesiaca. Volume 9, part 6. Flora Zambesiaca Managing Committee, London, United Kingdom. pp. 13–76.
  • Berg, C.C. & Wiebes, J.T., 1992. African fig trees and fig wasps. Koninklijke Nederlandse Akademie van Wetenschappen. Verhandelingen Afdeling Natuurkunde, Tweede Reeks, Deel 89. Amsterdam, Netherlands. 298 pp.
  • Burkill, H.M., 1997. The useful plants of West Tropical Africa. 2nd Edition. Volume 4, Families M–R. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. 969 pp.
  • Decary, R., 1946. Plantes et animaux utiles de Madagascar. Annales du Musée Colonial de Marseille, 54e année, 6e série, 4e volume, 1er et dernier fascicule. 234 pp.
  • Irvine, F.R., 1961. Woody plants of Ghana, with special reference to their uses. Oxford University Press, London, United Kingdom. 868 pp.
  • Marquet, M., in press. Archaeology and dyeing traditions in West Africa. Dyes in History and Archaeology 21.
  • Miège, J., 1992. Couleurs, teintures et plantes tinctoriales en Afrique occidentale. Bulletin du Centre Genevois d’Anthropologie 3: 115–131.
  • van Wyk, B.E. & Gericke, N., 2000. People’s plants: a guide to useful plants of southern Africa. Briza Publications, Pretoria, South Africa. 351 pp.
  • World Agroforestry Centre, undated. Agroforestree Database. [Internet] World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), Nairobi, Kenya. http://www.worldagroforestry.org/ Sites/TreeDBS/ aft.asp. February 2005.

Other references

  • Adjanohoun, E.J., Adjakidjè, V., Ahyi, M.R.A., Aké Assi, L., Akoègninou, A., d’Almeida, J., Apovo, F., Boukef, K., Chadare, M., Cusset, G., Dramane, K., Eyme, J., Gassita, J.N., Gbaguidi, N., Goudote, E., Guinko, S., Houngnon, P., Lo, I., Keita, A., Kiniffo, H.V., Kone-Bamba, D., Musampa Nseyya, A., Saadou, M., Sodogandji, T., De Souza, S., Tchabi, A., Zinsou Dossa, C. & Zohoun, T., 1989. Contribution aux études ethnobotaniques et floristiques en République Populaire du Bénin. Agence de Coopération Culturelle et Technique, Paris, France. 895 pp.
  • Adjanohoun, E.J. & Aké Assi, L., 1979. Contribution au recensement des plantes médicinales de Côte d’Ivoire. Centre National de Floristique, Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. 358 pp.
  • Berg, C.C., 1990. Annotated check-list of the Ficus species of the African floristic region, with special reference and a key to the taxa of southern Africa. Kirkia 13(2): 253–291.
  • Berg, C.C. & Hijman, M.E.E., 1989. Moraceae. In: Polhill, R.M. (Editor). Flora of Tropical East Africa. A.A. Balkema, Rotterdam, Netherlands. 95 pp.
  • Berg, C.C., Hijman, M.E.E. & Weerdenburg, J.C.A., 1985. Moraceae (incl. Cecropiaceae). Flore du Cameroun. Volume 28. Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Paris, France. 298 pp.
  • Coates Palgrave, K., 1983. Trees of southern Africa. 2nd Edition. Struik Publishers, Cape Town, South Africa. 959 pp.
  • Gelfand, M., Mavi, S., Drummond, R.B. & Ndemera, B., 1985. The traditional medical practitioner in Zimbabwe: his principles of practice and pharmacopoeia. Mambo Press, Gweru, Zimbabwe. 411 pp.
  • Aweke, G., 1979. Revision of the genus Ficus L. (Moraceae) in Ethiopia. (Primitiae Africanae 11). Mededelingen Landbouwhogeschool Wageningen 79–3. Wageningen, Netherlands. 115 pp.
  • Hauman, L., Lebrun, J. & Boutique, R., 1948. Moraceae. In: Robyns, W., Staner, P., De Wildeman, E., Germain, R., Gilbert, G., Hauman, L., Homès, M., Lebrun, J., Louis, J., Vanden Abeele, M. & Boutique, R. (Editors). Flore du Congo belge et du Ruanda-Urundi. Spermatophytes. Volume 1. Institut National pour l’Étude Agronomique du Congo belge, Brussels, Belgium. pp. 52–176.
  • Katende, A.B., Birnie, A. & Tengnäs, B., 1995. Useful trees and shrubs for Uganda: identification, propagation and management for agricultural and pastoral communities. Technical Handbook 10. Regional Soil Conservation Unit, Nairobi, Kenya. 710 pp.
  • Kokwaro, J.O., 1993. Medicinal plants of East Africa. 2nd Edition. Kenya Literature Bureau, Nairobi, Kenya. 401 pp.
  • Palmer, E. & Pitman, N., 1972–1974. Trees of southern Africa, covering all known indigenous species in the Republic of South Africa, South-West Africa, Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland. 3 volumes. Balkema, Cape Town, South Africa. 2235 pp.
  • Sommerlatte, H. & Sommerlatte, M., 1990. A field guide to the trees and shrubs of the Imatong Mountains, southern Sudan. Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Technische Zusammmenarbeit (GTZ), Nairobi, Kenya. 372 pp.
  • van Greuning, J.V., 1990. A synopsis of the genus Ficus (Moraceae) in southern Africa. South African Journal of Botany 56: 599–630.

Sources of illustration

  • Aweke, G., 1979. Revision of the genus Ficus L. (Moraceae) in Ethiopia. (Primitiae Africanae 11). Mededelingen Landbouwhogeschool Wageningen 79–3. Wageningen, Netherlands. 115 pp.

Author(s)

  • P.C.M. Jansen, PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands

Correct citation of this article

Jansen, P.C.M., 2005. Ficus glumosa Delile. In: Jansen, P.C.M. & Cardon, D. (Editors). PROTA (Plant Resources of Tropical Africa / Ressources végétales de l’Afrique tropicale), Wageningen, Netherlands. Accessed 11 February 2020.