One interesting thing to know is that Ficus leaves can vary greatly. They can vary in size, shape, texture, color etc. They even can vary on the same plant or whether the plant is growing strongly or just slowly.
Growing figs from seed reveals also that almost every seedling shows some subtle or not so subtle variations. The picture below shows two leaves grown from a Thailand seed source and the other from an Australian source. They are both the same species, Ficus virens, Lipstick fig, Red Balete, Spotted fig are all common local names for them.
Ficus virens, left is Thailand form, right is Australian form
The two leaves really do not look similar and yet they are the same species! Makes me scratch my head trying to ID figs from across the world by just looking at the leaf. For a true identification the syconia or figs need to be seen. Unfortunately, we seldom see figs on our bonsai.
To learn more about growing figs buy the definitive reference work on Ficus for bonsai. The book is a softcover, 8 by 10 inch volume, with 144 color pages, containing detailed information for the beginner as well as the advanced hobbyist. Click here for more information
Fig leaves are very variable from species to species. This is helpful in trying to identify a fig as belonging to a certain species. The problem is that the leaves on even a single plant can show great variation depending upon cultural conditions of light, moisture, growth in a container, wind, etc.
As an example the shot below shows several leaves removed from a single Ficus plant. The variability would make an attemp at a scientific identification very difficult. Many factors must be used to help in correctly identifying a fig. These include the leaf, bark, syconia, stipules etc.
Figs are wonderful plants to use for bonsai but they can infuriating to correctly identify without figs/syconia.
Ficus leaves removed from one plant showing the highly variable shape and character of the leaves
This is a Ficus rumphii, an unusual and rare bonsai subject in the west. This specimen is about 8 years old and seed grown.
Leaves are large but reduce with defoliation. There is some random branch die back suggesting that this may not make the best bonsai subject.
The bark is a rather stark whitish brown.
Ficus rumphii, about 12″ tall with most leaves removed
The definitive reference work on Ficus
for bonsai. The book is a softcover, 8 by 10 inch volume, with 144 color pages, containing detailed information for the beginner as well as the advanced hobbyist. Click here for more information
Ficus or figs are in a large family of plants showing many interesting and varied characteristics.
One of the most interesting aspects of various figs is the leaf. Leaves can be large, smooth or hairy, glossy or dull and have many, many other variations.
The photo below shows some fig leaves and their variation. The size of the leaves varies from 7″ to about 1″ on the right. All can be used for bonsai of various sizes depending on how much the leaves can reduce with proper culture and care.
Fig leaves from the left are benghalensis, ingens, religiosa, microcarpa and salicaria