Sycamore fig - the all-year fruit tree
Ficus sycomorus Afrikaans: gewone trosvy
From Egypt and the Sudan southwards down the whole length of Africa to Zululand, the sycamore fig will be found wherever there is water nearby. It is a deciduous to semi-deciduous tree. But leaves, flowers and fruits, as other members of the genus, follow their own individual cycle rather than of the seasons.
The reason the highly complex interrelationship between the fig tree and its wasp pollinator, there has to be at any one time of the year at least one tree in a given area that in fruit to ensure the on-going survival of the short lived insects.
The fruits, or figs, are round and can grow to some centimetres in diameter. Fruit are usually borne in great profusion either in dense clusters on the trunk and main branches or singly in the axils of the leaves. Understandably, this makes the sycamore one of the most frequented species for a great variety of animals as the fruits are rich and juicy.
For the game viewer in the Lowveld, the trees also offer rich pickings, with the chance of seeing anything from a rhino to warthogs, monkeys, baboons and antelope arriving to rob the tree of its fruit. Birds also flock to the fruiting trees, often moving through the branches in large, mixed feeding parties.
The fruit have a fairly pleasant taste and are collected by some rural folk. Enjoyment most would be most certainly be spoilt by the infestation with one of several species of wasp known to perform their miracle of pollination of the sycamore fig.
The tree is much valued as a shade tree but other uses are limited to ingredients for a few traditional remedies. In past times the soft wood was a friction base for fire starting. The greatly folded bole of a mature sycamore fig is common in older trees, which can have stems with a circumference of some 20 metres.
Fruit bats, thick tailed bushbaby, and purple crested louries and a host of other animals are all avid consumers of the sycamore fruits. Far from being a one sided association, the animals in their turn play an important role in seed dispersal.
Bushveld Trees : Malcolm Funston
Making the most of Indigenous Trees : Fanie & Julye-Ann Venter
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