Calling fruit detectives: 2 Mysteries to be solved. :)


So, I have 2 things that are really very perplexing to me and thought maybe you guys (and Gal’s, of course!) could help solve.

  1. A “wild” fig tree found growing in my orchard. This is by far the bigger of the 2 mysteries. How on EARTH could a fig just come up in my yard/orchard? From everything I know, this is way, way beyond possible!!! Let me give you some details and shoot down some easy possibilities:

a) I am absolutely certain that I never planted a tree, a cutting, or anything else where this plant is. It is located within 6 inches of the base of one of my persimmon trees. No way on earth would I have planted a tree so close to another one. However, the reason I do find this location especially interesting is that I do often see other fruit trees (including wild cherries especially) start in this location for obvious reasons. Birds eat the fruit from a neighborhood tree, poop out the seeds while resting in my tree, and the poop falls in are area which doesn’t get mowed or sprayed (at least not since mid summer this year). So its a place where birds rest and poop and an area where a tree could grow safely (my mower doesn’t get that close to my trees and I haven’t sprayed for a while now). So if it were anything other than a fig, this location would be explained by bird pooping in a safe place. HOWEVER-

b) Everything I’ve every read says that the only way a fig seed can be viable is if the mother plant/fig was visited by a fig wasp. My understanding is that the fig wasp in the USA only exists in parts of CA. Even if they have migrated, it’s certainly safe to say they couldn’t make it all the way to TN or live here if they one was somehow brought here (in a produce shipment or something). So…how on earth could a fig tree just sprout up underneath another tree?

c) Because the nearest fig tree is about 100 ft away, there is no way in the world that a root would grow this far and then send up a shoot. NO WAY.

This has caused me a great deal of curiosity and thought. Let me get you folk’s opinion on one long shot theory.: After my figs have been ripening for a little while, I get these strange little, tiny black bugs that show up. They are about the size of 2 straight pin heads, These guys all crawl in the eye of my figs and eat (and spoil) the figs from the inside. It seems plausable that one of these bugs that is crawling in and out of my figs and me having so many different figs side by side that one of these little black bugs could pollinate a fig. The rest is easily explained by a bird eating a fertilized fig and then pooping out seeds as it say in the tree that has the “wild” fig under it. Even more likely in my case is that one of my chickens ate a fig (they eat TONS of them) and/or just carried a fertilized fig to the new location. You often find pieces of figs my chickens picked and abandoned after eating a small part of it.

I know…everything I’ve read says only a fig wasp can fertilize figs…but darn it, how else do I get a random, wild fig growing?

2.) I have had a couple limbs on one of my persimmon trees get “broken” but not from a load and not really broken. It must be some kind of critter and probably even an insect of some kind, but the thing is, where the branch “breaks” it is the absolutely smoothest “break” you have ever seen. It looks exactly as if it were cut by a saw. More accurately, it looks like it was cut by one of those copper pipe cutters you go around and around with. I just can’t fathom an insect doing this, but it almost has to be. But not only is the cut smooth, its also a fairly large diameter limb. Seems like it would be beyond the ability of an insect to perfectly cut through hard Is there an insect that can do this? I’ve posted a photo.

After reading this giant e-mail most of you will be thinking it isn’t so great having me back after all! haha

Here is my mysterious wild fig. See…I’m not making this up!!

Here is the “cut” made on one of the limbs on my persimmon tree.: (NO…I didn’t do that! Unless some twisted person is sneaking in my orchard with a saw, (ha) then this is some kind of critter. A squirrel would be much messier if it did it. Beats me!


There are a couple insects that can do that second thing. They are called twig pruners and twig girdlers.


Unless this persimmon was planted as a bare root, my guess would be that the persimmon was previously planted in potting soil that contained fragments of fig roots, one of which eventually sprouted. This could happen if the nursery is reusing old potting soil.


Did you use any compost around the tree? Bagged compost? I also found a wild fig in my garden.


As I was reading the post my thoughts were that a fig root was in the persimmon pot when it was planted. I’m assuming no other fig plants are nearby to have roots that could have been severed when planting the persimmon.


Fig tree probably grew from a seed. Seed came from a dried, pollinated fig from the store. It’s happened before!


My guess is that an insect cut around the limb and the wind snapped it off making it look like a cut. My river birch trees drop several limbs like yours each year.


Fig pollination is incredibly complex and has only been understood for about the past 100 years, as a result nearly every variety in circulation was originally a selection from the wild. The fig wasp is the only possible pollinator, they are born inside of caprifigs and carry pollen from the stamens that develop in the first crop of caprifigs to the second (main) crop of female trees. So there is zero chance of natural pollination of your trees without a caprifig which is currently hosting the wasp.

That does not necessarily rule out a seedling though, figs are documented to produce apomictic seeds on occasion. It is unfortunately very poorly understood, but may require outside stimulus and or a polyploid mother… Or it could have been a seed from a dried fig, sure. In any case, due to the minute amount of starting energy available in a seed their appearance when young is starkly different than a plant that grows from a cutting.

Looking at the fig there are no indications that it is a seedling, it appears to be a normal cutting grown plant. Seedlings begin with tiny leaves (easily smothered by grass or weeds) that are all entire (mulberry shaped) and skinny stems. As seedlings develop they produce many, many, many suckers due to tightly packed internodes near the crown of the plant and abundant growth hormones.

So while I understand your confusion about how a cutting could have grown there, it is the only explanation that fits.


I have seedlings and the fig I found looks more like the seedlings than any cutting I ever rooted. Mine is still nowhere close to the size of a cutting. Caliper is still one or two mm.


Thanks you all for such outstanding responses! @Drew51 I had no idea you had just gone through a very similar discovery!!! That’s really funny. See what I miss when I take a month off. I especially want to thank @hoosierbanana for your extremely thorough, in-depth response that was very, very helpful. I had almost convinced myself that those tiny little black bugs that I have crawling in and out of the eyes of my figs had defied prior understandings of fig fertilization and had managed to carry some pollen from one fig to another, but your response and obvious knowledge of such things has convinced me that that isn’t the case. It would have been neat to have the first known discovery of a fig pollination without a fig wasp, but sounds like that is clearly not the case. I also had no idea that fig pollination was so complicated! Wow. Reading your post(s) makes me wonder of anyone has ever successfully done an intentional cross of 2 figs. Seems like it would be really hard to create a new variety by crossing figs the traditional way. Then again, that’s why someone said almost all figs that exist today are from varieties discovered in the wild.
@ampersand your hypothesis may actually be the leading contender for explaining my volunteer fig. Last year I ordered a large bag of dried figs from Its reasonable to assume that they were grown in a place that has fig wasps. I can distinctly remember walking through my orchard while snaking on some of those dried figs. Also, I wasn’t too wild about the taste of them and some were worse than others, so I’d often take a small bit and just throw the rest down. It seems like a very big long shot that one of them could land in the mulch under a tree and sprout, but it sounds like my best explanation. However, some people felt the fig in my photo didn’t look like a seedling, and so far it hasn’t send out suckers. So who knows!
Some people’s thoughts, like @Auburn and @danchappell were incredibly clever and would have been the best possible explanation of all of them , except for one thing- the persimmon tree beside which the fig came up was planted as a bare root tree, so no potting soil or outside mulch has been added. Anyway, we may never know. But it was really fun reading the responses and proves we have a LOT of very clever people here.

The second mystery was MUCH easier and @Levers101 and @Auburn unquestionably solved it. I can confirm this 100% certainly! After reading your responses that there are insects that do this and looking at photos of them, I carefully inspected my tree and guess what I found? Absolutely no question, its a PERFECT match to the link Drew posted. See…

Thanks for everyone’s answers.


I have! I got my first fig recently from a seedling Fig Seedlings- Controlled Cross

The University of California ran a program to create a replacement for Calimyrna, one that did not require pollination, it produced: Conadria, Excell, Flanders, Sierra, Sequoia, and a bunch of others. Texas A&M bred Alma. And then LSU wanted to start up a jam industry in the region so they bred and released a number: Tiger, Purple, Gold, O’Rourke, Champagne, there are some “officially unreleased” varieties floating around from that program as well. Unfortunately the jam plan failed because processing facilities never materialized.

Growing seedlings without knowing the pollen parent is very risky anywhere outside of wasp territory. According to available info the male is the only one that can pass on parthenocarpy (does not require pollination, aka common) to the offspring. So seeds from dried figs that are naturally pollinated may never produce any common female seedlings, only figs that require pollination…

Males are actually hermaphrodite and can actually produce seeds and self pollinate (with the help of the wasp of course).That means some caprifigs can have 2 dominant male genes, instead of only one, so a cross between them to a female (2 recessive female genes) results in all caprifigs with one male and one female gene. Science still has to yet explain the genes behind “edible caprifigs” and San Pedro types.

My seedlings are about twice as vigorous as most plants from cuttings, although there is some variation between them. I was rubbing out sucker and branch buds when they were less than a foot tall, they are beasts.

Are they sap beetles? I’ve seen them in a few figs recently.


hmmm…not sure if that is what I see going in and out of my fig eyes or not, but I’m leaning (just slightly) toward not. Mine seem a little more round and perhaps even smaller. But I’ll take another look, and try to get a photo.


My pecan gets branches cut by some critter and it looks like it was done by a pipe cutter. The branches are usually 1/2 to 3/4 inch in size so it is hard to imagine a bug that can do this or why. If anyone has a name or picture of the bug please post it.


Ron, I almost used a pipe cutter look to describe what was happening to my persimmon limbs but wasn’t sure everyone would understand that description. But yes, my limbs look EXACTLY like they were cut with a pipe cuter that didn’t quite make it all the way to the inside (ie, there was a tiny fraction of limb left right in the center that breaks off rough, but the 85% of the rest of the cut from center out was smooth and had that rounded look that a pipe cutter leaves. Also, I had limbs as large as 1/2 inch for sure, which seemed like way more than a small bug could do. But having seen the link I was given about and read more about those insects and seen a lot more photos of the cuts they make and the way they look, I am 100% certain that the bug in my photo above and the link given to me above that are EXACTLY what got my limbs and from your description, I’m 99.999% sure it is what is getting you too. Look at the photo of my insect, and carefully inspect your tree. They are extremely hard to spot, but if you do I’m betting the bank you’ll be finding the same thing I did !


Cityman, I went to the website and that is exactly what I have. I need to burn those fallen branches. It’ hard to believe a little bug can do this.


yep! When you said it looked like a pipe cutter, I was sure that was it. Keep in mind I just learned all this in the last week or so after seeing my own large branches cut like that.
While burning the broken off branches is a good idea, don’t count on that solving your problem. I found my little guy not on the fallen/cut branch, but on the remaining tree. SO carefully look around and you might find the culprit. From what I’ve read and my own experience both, there apparently is often only one of these bugs on the entire tree doing all the damage.
Like you said, hard to believe a little bug could smoothly cut such large branches! But it does.


I’ll do some looking but with a tree this size it will be tough.


Oops, wrong tree. …but it is that big.


Thanks for posting this. I had the EXACT same damage to my persimmon tree couple years back. I actually caged the tree thinking it was raccoons, chipmonk or deer. I had no idea what did it until reading this. These things must prefer persimmon trees. Perhaps i missed it but what actions are you taking for this particular pest?


I read the article so no need to respond with your action plan. Seems i should destroy the fallen branches and spray in Aug/Sept with insecticide if i see damage. It’s good to know what to look for. Thanks again for this topic.