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Ficus obliqua G.Forst. 1786
pronounced: FY-kuss oh-BLEEK-wah
(Moraceae – the fig family)
common name: Small-leafed fig
Ficus obliqua (from the Latin obliquus, slanted, awry) is an Australian native, found along the east coast from Mount Dromedary (36ºS) in NSW northwards along the coast and the Great Dividing Range into Cape York Peninsula, and in Papua New Guinea and the offshore islands. It is mostly, but not always, found in rainforest. It is pollinated by two species of fig wasp, Pleistodontes greenwoodi and Pleistodontes xanthocephalus. It is often planted as a shade tree in parks and public spaces, and is well-suited for use in bonsai. Rainbow Lorikeets and other birds consume the fruit and disperse the seeds, and the tree can become a strangler.
This tree can reach a great size, comparable with the Banyan figs in the Picnic Bay mall. It has smooth grey bark, and when growing on its own, a buttressed trunk. Its leaves are much smaller that those of the Banyan (as its common name would suggest), a glossy green colour and elliptic in shape, measuring 5–8 cm in length and 2–3.5 cm in width.
The spherical yellow fruits grow in pairs, and turn orangish yellow to orange-red on maturity (April – July), often with dark spots, and reach a diameter of about 8 mm. This species can be distinguished from Ficus rubiginosa by its smaller figs on shorter stalks, and its glabrous leaves.
Ficus obliqua makes an elegant shade tree for parks, and will adapt itself well to differing soils. There is a notable example in the Mick Ryan Park at Milton on the NSW coast, which stands 14 m tall and 38 m across, forming a local landmark. Like many other of the larger species of Ficus, it should not be planted in any but the largest gardens: its aggressive root system will invade drains, paths and even building foundations. There is also a good deal of litter drop that makes a mess underneath the tree.
It is a suitable tree for use in bonsai, and is popular for this purpose in the Brisbane area of southern Queensland. It can also be used for an indoors plant in office foyers and shopping centres.
In Fiji, where the tree is known as baka or baka ni viti, it is used in traditional medicine. The copious white sap has been used to treat painful or swollen joints, or diluted with water and drunk to improve breast milk. Liquid extracted from the root bark has been used for headaches, and the leaves are applied to venereal lesions.
The timber is too soft for use in woodworking.
Information about medicinal qualities of plants, or about their use as medicines, is for interest only, and is not intended to be used as a guide for the treatment of medical conditions.
Photographs takin in Picnic Bay, 2011, 2014
Page last updated 7th April 2017