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Thursday, December 4, 2014

Ficus dammaropsis - Highlands Breadfruit

This is perhaps the one of the most unique trees in Santa Cruz. The Highlands Breadfruit or the Dinner Plate Fig seems to be totally out of place with its huge tropical leaves and puzzling fruit. (Our mediterranean climate favors little leaves.) Even more curious is how it got there and why it has survived so long. I found a blog that suggested the plant came from San Lorenzo Lumber and was planted by the sister of a famous horticulturist here in Santa Cruz. Reportedly growing over 25' tall, this one really doesn't want to grow much taller than the building that's protecting it from the cold or sun.

Leaves are evergreen, alternate, simple, ovate, 12-18" long, deeply set veins, dark green upper surface, and very leathery. The leaves are eaten, as are the young shoots. Don't eat one on my recommendation. 

Flowers and fruit are an all in one package. Flowers of Ficus are arranged in a special type of inflorescence called a syconium, where the flowers are located on the inside of a swollen fleshy receptacle and appear to be closed at the tip. The "leaves" you see are bracts, like the inflorescence of an artichoke. When mature and ready for pollination, the bracts create an opening with a size and shape that fits only a certain type of wasp that can enter. The female wasp lays its eggs inside the fleshy receptacle, the larvae then more around, pollinating the flowers, which causes the fruit to enlarge. Lucky for us, many of the edible figs you like to eat are self pollinating.

Not likely around here. If you are a tropical plant collector, you might find some other figs that look very similar.

Santa Cruz
1001 Center St.

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