Ajuntament de Barcelona

Ficus carica

Hortes de Sant Bertran and Forestier's stairs

    Catalan name: 
    Spanish name: 
    English name: 
    Common fig

    According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the conservation status of this plant is least concern.

    Species characteristics
    Humid rocky areas, fast-flowing streams and road sides

    Deciduous tree 3-10 m tall, with a short and thick trunk, often with branches from the base, and a wide and very dense rounded crown. The bark is smooth and greyish.

    The leaves, 10-20 cm long and 10-18 cm wide, are alternate, rough and have a long petiole. The lobes, usually 3-7, have truncated or rounded base, slightly jagged margins and well marked nervation; they are dark green on the upper side and lighter green on the lower side, that is covered by tomentum (hairs making a sort of down).

    The tiny flowers are not visible, because they are inside of a fleshy receptacle similar to the fruit when it is open on the apical part by a pore.

    The fruits (the figs) are syconia (fleshy receptacles that preserve the real fruits); its shape and colour change depending on the variety: from globose to pear-shaped and from green to blackish purple. They are axillary and appear alone or in pairs.

    Flowering time: 
    February-April and August-September
    Fruiting time: 
    Late summer
    Uses and properties: 

    Common fig wood is used in construction as well as in the making of furniture and tools. Its leaves are used to feed cattle.

    The white latex produced by the leaves when they break is slightly irritating and has been used in medicine, as well as some other parts of the plant. Leaves can be irritating as well by rubbing them.

    Food is the main use of the common fig. The fruit is edible and highly appreciated as fresh fruit, in marmalade and jams and as a nut.

    The Common Fig appreciates a not very dry soil, although it can grow in sterile land such as walls and buildings or on top other trees such as palms and pines if it can find some substrate.

    History and curiosities: 

    The scientific name of the common fig tree, Ficus carica, consists of the genus name Ficus, from the Latin ficus, “figa”, and the term carica, probably in allusion to Caria, ancient country of Anatolia, where they were profusely cultivated.

    Some fig trees make fruit twice at year, with a first fruiting of early figs (bigger than the late summer figs), in June and July. The late summer fruits remain at the tree all the winter and ripen in late spring.

    The fig tree was one of the first plants that the mankind cultivated, even before than the wheat, the barley and the legumes, and it could be the first instance of agriculture: at Neolithic settlements from 9400/9200 BD in the Jordan valley, there have been found fossilized figs. The fig tree cultivation antiquity and importance in Mediterranean cultures is clear as reflected by the presence of this tree in several foundational myths: in the Genesis, after being caught sinning, Adam and Eve cover their nudity with fig tree leaves and, according the Latin legend, Romulus and Remus were breastfed by the wolf under a fig tree, therefore in Ancient Rome the fig tree was considered a holy tree.

    For further information: 

    LÓPEZ GONZÁLEZ, Ginés A. Los árboles y arbustos de la Península Ibérica e Islas Baleares. (2 vol.) Madrid: Mundi-Prensa, 2001

    THE ROYAL HORTICULTURAL SOCIETY. Enciclopedia de plantas y flores. Barcelona: Grijalbo, 1996