Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Grow a fig tree from seed, Moreton bay ficus, Ficus macrophylla

Disclaimer: the moreton bay fig tree should not be planted in the ground. This tree is very aggressive and it's roots can cause a lot of damage. Santa Barbara has a huge one: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moreton_Bay_Fig_Tree_(Santa_Barbara,_California). I won't let it get that big you say? The roots of young trees damage pipes, concrete, etc. Do not risk it unless you have half an acre of land you want to donate to a future giant. Ficus macrophylla is a banyan ficus which means that they grow as epiphytes on other trees. Figs need fig wasps to reproduce. what happens is that the tree produces a little ball with a hole in it. then a pregnant wasp comes in and lays its eggs. When the wasp pushes her way in the fig it pollenates the new fig. There's another kind of fig wasp that comes and lays eggs and they eat the first kind of wasp. so if you love eating FIGS this is the way that figs get pollinated, because if you ever notice a fig doesn't have flowers on the tree. All the flowers are in the inside of that little ball.

This is the tree that I collected the figs from. Most of the figs are not ripe, but by next week the floors is going to be littered with purple little balls. I found a handful of ripe Figs. Birds love to eat these figs. last year I tasted it and it tastes almost exactly like the figs that we normally eat. However, they are dry, have big hard seeds. They are not really for human consumption unless you have nothing else to eat.


The place where I work opened in 1905. I don't believe that this fig is that old because the one in Santa Barbara is huge in its maybe 15 years older than where I work . So, maybe this one was planted in the forties or fifties.


Here you can see the typical look of the Moreton Bay fig with the spear like leaves and tight clusters of figs.


I only found a few figs on the floor. Most of them are still green. These were probably knocked down by birds from the canopy of the tree. 


This is all I found at this moment but next week I'll be stepping on hundreds of them.


Here's a close up of a Moreton Bay Fig. I think it's quite beautiful.



What you need to do to separate the seeds from the flesh. Get a bottle with a lid, some hydrogen peroxide, and then later we'll be adding some water. The hydrogen peroxide that they sell at the pharmacy is pretty weak but its strong enough to break some of the sugars into water and carbon dioxide. 



So, first split the figs in half and then scoop out the flesh and seeds and put them inside the bottle.




This is where you add the hydrogen peroxide. you are going to add enough to make a soft slurry. Close the bottle up and shake as hard as you can. The key is to separate all the fleshy stuff and the sugars from the seeds.



After you shake the hydrogen peroxide add plenty of water. After you add the water pour some of it out, keep adding water until it becomes nice and clear. All the good seeds will have sunk to the bottom so don't worry about losing any of the good seeds unless you pour out all the water. 





For the potting mix I used potting soil mixed with about 40% sand. A mistake that I made last year which led to me losing all of my seedlings was that i planted them in a super shallow container. Maybe it was an inch or an inch and a half deep. My plants had grown a good 6 inches tall. They look like a little forest, but the dirt was so shallow that the roots dried out very easily and that's how I lost them.


I poured the water with the seeds right onto the soil. Some of the seeds stuck to the bottle so I had to add more water and pour it in again.


On top I added a fine mixture of turface and sand and volcanic rock and fine organic matter.



To finish everything off I wet the pot thouroughly. then I added these bamboo skewers, I am going to put a plastic bag on it and tie it with a rubber band.  This will make a mini greenhouse that'll keep everything nice and humid and extra warm. Warmth is essential for the seeds to germinate.



That's it for preparing seeds for germination. Now all you have to do is sit back relax and keep the dirt nice and moist. Cheers.

Update: March 25  

They are here in time for easter. 23 days after they were planted the Ficus Macrophylla popped out to greet the world. Hopefully I will have a forest of seedlings carpeting the pot soon.


Update: May 19

The seedlings are two months old. They are much bigger and have their first pair of true leaves. 


Update: June 22

Growth continues to be steady for these seedlings

moreton bay ficus
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Update July 4

I decided that it was time to separate some of the small ficus and let them grow individually

moreton bay fig seedling




Now we'll see how resilient ficus macrophylla is, will they survive?

Update August 10

Here are the seedlings. The trunks are lignafyjng. 


Update November 29

I finally got around to separating the ficus macrophylla seedlings. They are three months shy of a year. These are from the original planting, and are not the plants I separated above. 

seedlings
Ficus Macrophylla Seedlings


moreton bay fig






The trunks are almost as thick as my pinky. That's very good growth for one year considering they grew from seed. I put each in individual pots. My plan for the ficus is to fertilize every week in the spring and every other week in the summer. Growth should be amazing. I will try growing F. benghalensis, and F. religiosa next year.