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Armstrong, courtesy of Wayne's Word. Florida strangler fig Ficus aurea. Shortleaf fig, also known as the giant bearded fig or wild banyan tree Ficus citrifolia.
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Photo by Pedro Acevedo-Rodriquez. Fig trees have no visible flowers. At first one might think that they are wind pollinated. Who would visit such an unattractive non-flower?
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A fig is actually the stem of an inflorescence, very enlarged and fleshy, that surrounds the tiny flowers inside. The crunchy little things that you notice when eating a fig are the seeds, each corresponding to one flower.
- Common fig.
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Such a unique flower requires a unique pollinator. All fig trees are pollinated by very small wasps of the family Agaonidae. Fig trees are tropical plants with numerous species around the world. There are just two species native to the United States: the Florida strangler fig Ficus aurea and the shortleaf fig also called giant bearded fig or wild banyan tree Ficus citrifolia. Each requires the services of one species of wasps.
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Both are closely related and belong to the same genus: Pegoscapus. The strangler fig is pollinated by Pegoscapus mexicanus and the shortleaf fig by Pegoscapus tonduzi. When the female flowers inside the immature fruit are ready for pollination the fig emits an enticing aroma that attracts only female wasps of the specific type for that tree. The wasp finds the fig by its scent and struggles to get inside through the small opening at the end of the fig.
It is such a tight passage that the wasp usually loses its wings and pieces of antennae. It does not matter because it will never need them again. It runs around the interior of the fruit visiting many flowers, laying its eggs inside the future seeds that will nourish its progeny and also spreading the pollen collected from the previous fig where it was born.
This pollen will allow all seeds to grow, not just the ones where it has deposited eggs. Having fulfilled her life's mission the female wasp dies inside the fig. To save this word, you'll need to log in. Explore the year a word first appeared From the Editors at Merriam-Webster. Entry 1 of 2 1 : an oblong or pear-shaped fruit that is a syconium especially : the edible fruit of a widely cultivated tree Ficus carica that has laxative qualities 2 : any of a genus Ficus of trees of the mulberry family that produce figs fig.
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Save Word. Log In. Illustration of fig Noun 1 fig 1 In the meaning defined above. First Known Use of fig Noun 1 13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a Noun 2 , in the meaning defined above. Keep scrolling for more.
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