Sweet Sandpaper Figs

Hi all. I ordered some Ficus opposita seeds from Fair Dinkum seeds 5 or 6 years ago (can’t recall). If the site description is accurate, they’re apparently very sweet and excellent, small-fruited yet prolific. The seeds promptly sprouted, and with my usual brand of neglect, 5 survivors became apparent (decent chances for a dioecious species). They should’ve matured in a year, but I choked 'em off in a single 2-gal pot 'cause of too many projects (some things never change). I stuck 'em all in a single hole in the ground at my Gramma’s in late summer / early fall 2018, and now they’re bearing their first fruits, 2 of 'em.

My first concern when I started growing them was their dioecious nature… A male wouldn’t fruit for me. As for females… ¿Are they like most wild figs that require pollination to mature, or are they like some figs that soften and sweeten regardless? My second (and arguably more important) concern… ¿Could the fruit mature in the absence of an actual pollinator? Their native fig wasps aren’t present here in Puerto Rico, and though I was willing to experiment by importing caprifigs, the domestic fig wasp might not be compatible.

So essentially, I’m now watching and waiting to see if the figs on the female will soften and sweeten on their own, or if they’ll remain rock hard until they fall off. If they mature, I’m taking cuttings and airlayers, and if they don’t, I may try caprifigs or maybe just give up on them.

These pics are a few weeks old, they’re now about half-again the same size, almost twice. I’ll take some more pics tomorrow, they had a little more of the pink blush when last I saw them. My new concern now is the possibility that they might actually ripen and get eaten by birds before I get to see them. Let’s hope things work out.

Pics:


4 Likes

Here’s an excellent article on the reproductive life cycle of figs:

https://www2.palomar.edu/users/warmstrong/arbimg10.htm#introduction

While it primarily focuses on ficus carica, in general it should be pretty accurate for most fig species. One thing to note, each fig species has its own associated wasp species. So if you have a non-native fig, chances are that the proper fig wasp is not present.

If this fig needs the wasp, you can always graft a common fig variety to it. No need to completely waste the time put into them.

You can protect them by netting.

Tony

I had to bag the figs, I lost the first few. A couple fell off at maturity inside the bag, and I finally tasted them… No good. Looks like this fig needs a pollinator, which isn’t likely to happen outside Australia. I’d be willing to try some common caprifigs, if I could get my hands on them. Otherwise, I’ll either chop it down or graft a common fig to it.

These figs have been fruiting for several years straight. No dice. Without a wasp, it’s not gonna work. I haven’t tried grafting a common variety to it, but I still have the option. Let’s see if I can get my Violette du Bordeaux to branch well enough.

Thanks for the update. You are correct that caducous individuals of this fig needs the wasp species from its native region – which is different from the wasp species that interacts with F. carica and F. palmata.

I really have zero expectations of success fruiting this species, but with nothing to lose but time & effort, I ask… is there a more-than-0% chance of success fruiting it by using domestic caprifigs or wasp-filled figs native to my area? I know that some hybrid Ficus exist, so the wasps don’t necessarily limit themselves to one species when presented the chance, but I realize the chances are very slim.

Experiments in the literature demonstrate that species of fig wasps will not enter fig species they are not symbiotic with.

Natural hybrids of F. carica x palmata (and visa versa) exist because both species are symbiotic with the same wasp.

Laboratory hybrids of F. carica x pumila exist from hand pollination. I’m not aware of any others.

1 Like

Caesar, have you ever tried this approach to ripen your sweet sandpaper figs? This article is obviously focused on F. Sycomorus but it would do no harm to attempt the same approach with your F. Opposita. (Just eliminate the space between the 2 and the .pdf Apparently one can’t post a link directly).
hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/Hort_306/reading/Reading%2010-2
.pdf

2 Likes

@Richard

Understood! Thank you for enlightening me. I had only ever heard of the pumila hybrid, and had done no reading on the subject.

@Pvon

My guess is that the link didn’t go through for you because it’s your first post. An anti-spam measure.

I’ve never tried these methods, it’s all new to me, but you’ve greatly peaked my interest! I’ll try cutting a few of the figs, and maybe bagging a few others with an apple slice. I don’t have much of a budget to rely on concentrated hormones just yet. I’ll report back with my progress and results. Thank you for the info!

1 Like

I cut into a branch’s worth of figs with a blunt-ish pruner point. More like stabbed. It’s been almost a week, and if there’s any difference to be seen, it’s too subtle for me. I’m still hopefull, and there’s always the chance to ripen with an apple.

I would think the timing of when you gash the immature fig in its fruiting cycle would also be important - but I’m only guessing. Lucky we are only hobby farmers and can afford to experiment on a small scale.

2 Likes

Oh yes, there’s plenty of fruit for trial and error.

So far, the sliced fruits are still hard. I snapped some pics!

My next step is to try the apple slice… if I can bother to remember. There’s a lot to do at Gramma’s, so I often remember stuff after I’m already back home.

1 Like

are your oppositas male or female? if they are female, then there’s a chance they could be pollinated using pollen from a male carica, since these two species are graft compatible. if the pollination was successful then please sow the seeds, since this would be the fourth or fifth carica hybrid ever made. you could still make the hybrid if your opposita is male, by using its pollen on a female carica.

carica doesn’t grow very well in the tropics because of nematodes. so a hybrid between carica and opposita could potentially be very useful.

1 Like