10 Fascinating Fig Facts

GWS_figs

“As our planet’s climate changes and reminds us that nature really does matter, the story [of fig trees] has important lessons for us all.” –Mike Shanahan

In short, fig trees are awesome.

They have been around for 80 million years and during that time they have shaped our world and impacted humanity in profound but little-known ways. In his new book, Gods, Wasps, and Stranglersrecently featured in The New Yorker—journalist and researcher Mike Shanahan reveals the captivating story of fig trees and how they can offer our planet hope for the future.

Here are 10 Fascinating Fig Facts to pique your interest:

  • There are over 750 known Ficus species in the world, native all across the globe.
  • Nearly every species of fig tree is pollinated by its own distinct species of fig wasp, each a fascinating example of co-evolution.
  • Although the average female fig wasp is less than two millimeters long, she must often travel tens of kilometers in less than 48 hours to lay her eggs in another fig—a truly heroic journey!
  • Fig trees are keystone species in many rainforests, producing fruit year round that are important food sources for thousands of animal species from bats to monkeys to birds.
  • Fig tree flowers are actually hidden inside the fruit, which led many early cultures to believe the plants to be flowerless.
  • Figs have played prominent roles in every major modern religion, including Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism, Islam, and Hinduism.
  • Some fig species are trees, others are vines, shrubs, and even epiphytes.
  • Female rhinoceros hornbills are sealed into the hollow trunks of trees to brood by their male partners, who also deliver them figs to eat through narrow crevices.
  • Strangler figs grow their roots downward from the tops of their host trees ultimately killing and replacing them.
  • A banyan tree (Ficus benghalensis) can resemble a small forest thanks to the false trunks grown from its aerial prop roots. The largest one on record is growing in India and spans more than four acres.
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Gods, Wasps and Stranglers

The Secret History and Redemptive Future of Fig Trees

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