Sunday, October 10, 2010

Fig: An Extraordinary Fruit

Fig (Ficus carica): Syconium

Have you ever seen fig flowers?  If you are thinking of colorful petals then it is certain that you would not have recognized the flower even if you saw one.  However, if you have already opened a fig fruit it is likely that you also have seen fig flowers.  Fig flowers are hidden.  Hundreds of tiny flowers line the inner wall of a hallow receptacle.  In the natural process of fruiting, cells around the ovary enlarge and divide soon after the ovules have been fertilized.  This growth of cells results from a natural production of the necessary plant hormones (such as gibberellin and auxin) which is triggered by the fertilization of the ovules (except in the case of parthenocapic fruits).  The fruit generally functions as attractant to organisms that would be agent to seed dispersal.  In the case of figs, the receptacle enlarges around the seeds - forming a sweet and fleshy bulbous-shape fruit.

Inverted fruit.   An ordinary plant flower is colorful and very conspicuous attracting a wide variety of pollinators.  The flower is like the flag being waved to indicate that this flower welcomes visitors.  The fig inflorescence is the opposite of the normal flower because they are hidden inside a syconium (from the Greek word sykon meaning fig).  Syconium is an inverted fruit and the fig is a syconium.  A carpet of numerous small flowers is concealed inside with only a tiny aperture called osteole on the outer end of the fruit.

Pollination Extraordinaire.  With the enclosed flowers of this tree, pollination is hardly imaginable.  However, through the mystery of a mutualistic symbiosis between the fig tree and the fig wasp, pollination takes place in a most unusual way. The flowers inside the syconium exude a subtle hint of perfume that serves as a signal for the wasps to get in at the right time.  Of all the insect species, only the fig wasp is known to pollinate the fig tree.  Likewise, of all the fruits known to these wasps, only the fig qualifies to hold their eggs. The fig tree and the fig wasp cannot live without the other.  Truly, this interesting phenomenon in plant-insect relationship cannot be explained easily without attributing it to God's design.

Cross section of a syconium showing numerous achenes. 

Figs - delicious and nutritious fruits.


Curbstone Valley Farm said...

Fascinating post. I must admit, I've never really thought much about figs before...other than eating them. Even though I have a fig tree!

p3chandan said...

Ive seen only dried fig all these while. So its quite a beautiful colour when they are fresh and so juicy looking compared to the dried ones.

Helen Lewis said...

Curbstone VF - Indeed figs are strange even if they look ordinary. Now you can appreciate your tree with more curiousity. Thanks for visiting. I have not been actively blogging lately.

Helen Lewis said...

p3chandan- These are black figs but there are different varieties that have different fruit colors and sizes. How are you? I've been an absentee blogger for a while. :)

p3chandan said...

Hi Helen Im fine tq. Hope you are too. Figs have different colours n sizes? I didnt know that..cos they all look somewhat the same when they are dried.:)

~fer said...

Those figs look great! I am sure they are delicious as well

Helen Lewis said...

Yes they were delicious. I also made fig jam and they were really good! I added lemon juice to give a little bit of tartness.

Teresa Carrillo said...

Hi Helen, You have a beautiful bog! I spoke to you today (via telephone)about my falling figs :( I posted your beautiful pictures on my Pinterest page. I know we also share the same faith (Jesus!)PRAISE THE LORD! I want to thank you again for the info you gave me, regarding fig pollination and the fig wasp! God Bless You! Terry Carrillo

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