Ficus maxima

Ficus maxima

name = "Ficus maxima"

regnum = Plantae
divisio = Magnoliophyta
classis = Magnoliopsida
ordo = Urticales
familia = Moraceae
genus = "Ficus"
species = "F. maxima"
binomial = "Ficus maxima"
binomial_authority = Mill.
synonyms = "Ficus bopiana" Rusby "Ficus chaconiana" Standl. & L.O. Williams "Ficus citrifolia" Lam. "Ficus coybana" Miq. "Ficus glaucescens" (Liebm.) Miq. "Ficus guadalajarana" S.Watson "Ficus guapoi" Hassl. "Ficus hernandezii" (Liebm.) Miq. "Ficus mexicana" (Miq.) Miq. "Ficus murilloi" Dugand "Ficus murilloi" var "cajambrensis" Dugand "Ficus myxaefolia" Kunth & Bouché "Ficus parkeri" Miq. "Ficus picardae" Warb. "Ficus plumieri" Urb. "Ficus protensa" (Griseb.) Hemsl. "Ficus pseudoradula" (Miq.) Miq. "Ficus radula" Humb. & Bonpl. ex Willd. "Ficus rubricosta" Warb. "Ficus sodiroi" Rossberg "Ficus subscabrida" Warb. "Ficus suffocans" Banks ex Griseb. "Ficus ulei" Rossberg "Ficus vicencionis" Dugand "Pharmacosycea glaucescens" Liebm. "Pharmacosycea grandaeva" Miq. "Pharmacosycea guyanensis" Miq. "Pharmacosycea hernandezii" Liebm. "Pharmacosycea mexicana" Miq. "Pharmacosycea pseudoradula" Miq. "Pharmacosycea radula" (Humb. & Bonpl. ex Willd.) Liebm. "Pharmacosycea radula" (Humb. & Bonpl. ex Willd.) Miq. "Pharmacosycea rigida" Miq. "Urostigma laurifolium" (Hort. ex Lam.) Miq. "Urostigma protensum" Griseb.cite web|url=|title= "Ficus maxima" Mill. Synonyms|accessdate= 2008-06-27|work=|publisher= Missouri Botanical Garden]

"Ficus maxima" is a fig tree which is native to Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean and South America south to Paraguay. Figs belong to the Moraceae family. The specific epithet "maxima" was coined by Scottish botanist Philip Miller in 1768; Miller's name was applied to this species in the "Flora of Jamaica", but it was later determined that Miller's description was actually of the species now known as "Ficus aurea". To avoid confusion, Cornelis Berg proposed that the name should be conserved for this species. Berg's proposal was accepted in 2005.

Individuals may reach heights of 30 m (100 ft). Like all figs it has an obligate mutualism with fig wasps; "F. maxima" is only pollinated by the fig wasp "Tetrapus americanus", and "T. americanus" only reproduces in its flowers. "F. maxima" fruit and leaves are important food resources for a variety of birds and mammals. It is used in a number of traditional remedies across its range.


"Ficus maxima" is a tree which ranges from 5–30 m (16–100 ft) tall. Leaves vary in shape from long and narrow to more oval, and range from 6–24 (cm) (2–9 in) long and from 2.5–12 cm (1–5 in) wide.DeWolf, Gordon P., Jr. 1960. Ficus (Tourn.) L. "In" Lorin I. Nevling, Jr., [ Flora of Panama. Part IV. Fascicle II] . "Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden", 47 (2):81–203] "F. maxima" is monoecious; each tree bears functional male and female flowers.cite journal | quotes = no | last = Jousselin | first = Emmanuelle | coauthors = Finn Kjellberg; Edward Allen Herre | year = 2004 | title = Flower specialization in a passively pollinated monoecious fig: A question of style and stigma? | journal = International Journal of Plant Sciences | volume = 165 | issue = 4 | pages = 587–593 | doi = 10.1086/386558 | url = ] The figs are borne singly and are 1–2 cm (0.4–0.8 in) in diameter (sometimes up to 2.5 cm [1 in] ). [ Flora de Nicaragua] database. Tropicos. es Retrieved on 2008-07-05.]


With about 750 species, "Ficus" (Moraceae) is one of the largest angiosperm genera. (Frodin ranked it as the 31st largest.)cite journal | quotes = no | last = Frodin | first = David G. | authorlink = | year = 2004 | month = | title = History and concepts of big plant genera | journal = Taxon | volume = 53 | issue = 3 | pages = 753–776 | url =| doi = 10.2307/4135449 ] "Ficus maxima" is classified in subgenus "Pharmacosycea",cite journal | quotes = no | last = Berg | first = Cornelis C. | year = 2003 | month = May | title = (1587–1590) Proposals to conserve the names "Ficus citrifolia" against "F. caribaea", "F. maxima" with a conserved type, "F. aurea" against "F. ciliolosa", and "F. americana" against "F. perforata" (Moraceae) | journal = Taxon | volume = 52 | issue = 2 | pages = 368–370 | doi = | url = ] section "Pharmacosycea", subsection "Petenenses".cite journal | quotes = no | last = Berg | first = C. C. | year = 2006 | title = The subdivision of "Ficus" subgenus "Pharmacosycea" Section "Pharmacosycea" (Moraceae) | journal = Blumea | volume = 51 | issue = 1 | pages = 147–151 | url = ] Although recent work suggests that subgenus "Pharmacosycea" is polyphyletic, section "Pharmacosycea" appears to be monophyletic and is a sister group to the rest of the genus "Ficus".cite journal | quotes = no | last = Rønsted | first = N. | authorlink = | coauthors = G.D. Weiblen; W.L. Clement; N.J.C. Zerega; V. Savolainen | year = 2008 | month = | title = Reconstructing the phylogeny of figs (Ficus, Moraceae) to reveal the history of the fig pollination mutualism | journal = Symbiosis | volume = 45 | issue = 1–3 | pages = 45–56 | url = ]

. Berg located the plant collection upon which Sloane's illustration was based and concluded that Miller's "F. maxima" was, in fact, "F. aurea".

In 1806 the name "Ficus radula" was applied to material belonging to this species. The description, based on material collected in Venezuela by German naturalist Alexander von Humboldt and French botanist Aimé Bonpland, was published in Carl Ludwig Willdenow's fourth edition of Linneaus' "Species Plantarum". This is the oldest description that can unequivocally be applied to this species. In 1847 Danish botanist Frederik Michael Liebmann applied the name "Pharmacosycea glaucescens" to Mexican material belonging to this species. (It was transferred to the genus "Ficus" by Dutch botanist Friedrich Anton Wilhelm Miquel in 1867.) In 1849 the name "Ficus suffocans" was applied to Jamaican material belonging to this species in August Grisebach's "Flora of the British West Indian Islands".cite book|last=Grisebach|first=August |authorlink=August Grisebach|title=Flora of the British West Indian Islands|origyear=1859|url=|accessdate=2008-07-02|volume=1|publisher=L. Reeve & Co|location=London]

In their 1914 "Flora of Jamaica", William Fawcett and Alfred Barton Rendle linked Sloane's illustration to "F. suffocans". Gordon DeWolf agreed with their conclusion and used the name "F. maxima" for that species in the 1960 "Flora of Panama", supplanting "F. radula" and "F. glaucescens".DeWolf, Gordon P., Jr. 1960. Ficus (Tourn.) L. "In" Lorin I. Nevling, Jr., [ Flora of Panama. Part IV. Fascicle II] . "Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden", 47 (2):81–203] Since this use has become widespread, Berg proposed that the name "Ficus maxima" be conserved in the way DeWolf had used it with a new type (Krukoff's 1934 collection from Amazonas, Brazil). This proposal was accepted by the nomenclatural committee in 2005.cite journal | quotes = no | last = Brummitt | first = R.K. | authorlink = | year = 2005 | month = May | title = Report of the Committee for Spermatophyta: 56 | journal = Taxon | volume = 54 | issue = 2 | pages = 527–536 | url = ]

Common names

"Ficus maxima" ranges from the northern Caribbean to southern South America, in countries where English, Spanish, Portuguese and a variety of indigenous languages are spoken. Across this range, it is known by a variety of common names.


Figs have an obligate mutualism with fig wasps (Agaonidae); figs are only pollinated by fig wasps, and fig wasps are only able to reproduce in fig flowers. Generally, each fig species depends on a single species of fig wasp for pollination, and each species of fig wasp can only reproduce in the flowers of a single species of fig tree. "Ficus maxima" is pollinated by "Tetrapus americanus", although recent work suggests that the species known as "T. americanus" is a cryptic species complex of at least two species, which are not sister taxa.cite journal | quotes = no | last = Molbo | first = Drude | coauthors = Carlos A. Machado, Jan G. Sevenster, Laurent Keller, Edward Allen Herre | year = 2003 | title = Cryptic species of fig-pollinating wasps: Implications for the evolution of the fig–wasp mutualism, sex allocation, and precision of adaptation | journal = Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA | volume = 100 | issue = 10 | pages = 5867–72 | doi = 10.1073/pnas.0930903100 ]

Figs have complicated inflorescences called syconia. Flowers are entirely contained within an enclosed structure. Their only connection with the outside is through a small pore called ostiole. Monoecious figs like "F. maxima" have both male and female flowers within the syconium.cite journal | quotes = no | last = Janzen | first = Daniel H. | authorlink = Daniel Janzen | year = 1979 | title = How to be a fig | journal = Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics | volume = 10 | pages = 13–51 | issn = 0066-4162 | doi = 10.1146/ ] Female flowers mature first. Once mature, they produce a volatile chemical attractant which is recognised by female wasps belonging to the species "Tetrapus americanus". Female wasps of this species are about 2 mm (0.08 in) long and are capable of producing about 190 offspring.

Female fig wasps arrive carrying pollen from their natal tree and squeeze their way through the ostiole into the interior of the synconium. The syncomium bears 500–600 female flowers arranged in multiple layers - those that are closer to the outer wall of the fig have short pedicels and long styles, while those that are located closer to the interior of the chamber have long pedicels and short styles. Female wasps generally lay their eggs in the short-styled flowers, while longer-styled flowers were more likely to be pollinated. The eggs hatch and the larvae parasitise the flowers in which they were laid. Pollinated flowers which have not been parasitised give rise to seeds.

Male wasps mature and emerge before the females. They mate with the females, which have not yet emerged from their galls. Males cut exit holes in the outer wall of the syconium, through which the females exit the fig.cite book|last=Kjellberg|first=Finn|coauthors=Emmanuelle Jousselin, Martine Hossaert-McKey, Jean-Yves Rasplus|editor=A. Raman, Carl W. Schaefer, Toni M. Withers (eds.)|title=Biology, Ecology, and Evolution of Gall-inducing Arthropods|year=2005|publisher=Science publishers, Inc.|location=Enfield (NH) USA, Plymouth, UK|isbn=978-1-57808-262-9|pages=539–572|chapter=Biology, ecology and evolution of fig-pollinating wasps (Chalcidoidea, Agaonidae)|chapterurl=] The male flowers mature around the same time as the female wasps emerge and shed their pollen on the newly emerged females; like about one third of figs, "F. maxima" is passively pollinated. The newly emerged female wasps leave through the exit holes the males have cut and fly off to find a syconium in which to lay their eggs. The figs then ripen. The ripe figs are eaten by a variety of mammals and birds which disperse the seeds.


"Ficus maxima" ranges from Paraguay and Bolivia in the south to Mexico in the north, where it is widespread and common. It is found in fourteen states across the southern and central portion of the country. It occurs in tropical deciduous forest, tropical semi-evergreen forest, tropical evergreen forest, oak forest and in aquatic or subaquatic habitats.cite journal | quotes = no | last = Serrato | first = Alejandra | authorlink = | coauthors = Guillermo Ibarra-Manríquez; Ken Oyama | year = 2004 | month = March | title = Biogeography and conservation of the genus "Ficus" (Moraceae) in Mexico | journal = Journal of Biogeography | volume = 31 | issue = 3 | pages = 475–85 | issn = | url = | doi = 10.1046/j.0305-0270.2003.01039.x ] It is found throughout Central America - in Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Costa Rica and Panama. It is present in Cuba and Jamaica in the Greater Antilles, and Trinidad and Tobago in the southern Caribbean. In South America it ranges through Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay and in the Brazilian states of Amapá, Amazonas, Mato Grosso, Minas Gerais, Pará.cite web|url=|title= "Ficus maxima" Mill. |accessdate= 2008-06-28|author= USDA, ARS, National Genetic Resources Program|work= Germplasm Resources Information Network - (GRIN)|publisher= National Germplasm Resources Laboratory, Beltsville, Maryland]


Figs are sometimes considered to be potential keystone species for communities of fruit-eating animals; their asynchronous fruiting patterns may cause them to be important fruit sources when other food sources are scarce.cite book|last=Terborgh|first=John|editor=Michael E. Soulé (ed.)|title=Conservation Biology: The Science of Scarcity and Diversity|year=1986|publisher=Sinauer Associates|location=Sunderland, Massachusetts|language=|isbn=978-0878937950|pages=330–44|chapter=Keystone plant resources in the tropical forests] At Tinigua National Park in Colombia "Ficus maxima" was an important fruit producer during periods of fruit scarcity in one of three years. This led Colombian ecologist Pablo Stevens to consider it a possible keystone species, but he decided against including it in his final list of potential keystone species at the site.cite book|last=Stevenson|first=Pablo|editor=J. Lawrence Dew and Jean Philippe Boubli (eds.)|title= Tropical Fruits and Frugivores: The Search for Strong Interactors|year=2005|publisher=Springer Netherlands|isbn=978-1-4020-3833-4|doi=10.1007/1-4020-3833-X|pages=37–57|chapter=Potential Keystone Plant Species for the Frugivore Community at Tinigua Park, Colombia]

"Ficus maxima" fruit are consumed by birds and mammals. These animals act as seed dispersers when the defaecate or regurgitate intact seeds, or when they drop fruit below the parent tree.cite paper | first = Matthew B. | last = Jones | title = Secondary Seed Removal by Ants, Beetles, and Rodents in a Neotropical Moist Forest | version = M.S. Thesis | publisher = University of Florida | date = April, 1994 | url = | accessdate = 2008-07-03] In Panama, "F. maxima" fruit were reported to have relatively high levels of protein and low levels of water-soluble carbohydrates in a study of "Ficus" fruit consumed by bats.cite journal | quotes = no | last = Wendeln | first = Marcia C. | coauthors = James R. Runkle, Elisabeth K. V. Kalko | year = 2000 | title = Nutritional Values of 14 Fig Species and Bat Feeding Preferences in Panama | journal = Biotropica | volume = 32 | issue = 3 | pages = 489–501 | doi = 10.1646/0006-3606(2000)032 [0489:NVOFSA] 2.0.CO;2 | url = ]

Black howler monkeys in Belize consume fruit and young and mature leaves of "F. maxima".cite journal | quotes = no | last = Silver | first = S. C. | coauthors = L. E. T. Ostro; C. P. Yeager; R. Horwich | year = 1999 | month = | title = Feeding ecology of the black howler monkey ("Alouatta pigra") in Northern Belize | journal = American Journal of Primatology | volume = 45 | issue = 3 | pages = 263–79 |url= |pmid=9651649 | doi = 10.1002/(SICI)1098-2345(1998)45:3<263::AID-AJP3>3.0.CO;2-U| doilabel = 10.1002/(SICI)1098-2345(1998)45:3263::AID-AJP33.0.CO;2-U ] In southern Veracruz, Mexico, "F. maxima" was the third most important food source for a studied population of Mexican howler monkeys; they consumed young leaves, mature leaves, mature fruit and petioles.cite journal | quotes = no | last = Serio-Silva | first = Juan Carlos | coauthors = Victor Rico-Gray, Laura Teresa Hernández-Salazar, Rene Espinosa-Gómez | year = 2002 | title = The role of "Ficus" (Moraceae) in the diet and nutrition of a troop of Mexican howler monkeys, "Alouatta palliata mexicana", released on an island in southern Veracruz, Mexico | journal = Journal of Tropical Ecology | volume = 18 | issue = 6 | pages = 913–28 | doi = 10.1017/S0266467402002596 ] Venezuelan red howlers were observed feeding "F. maxima" fruit in Colombia.cite journal | quotes = no | last = Stevenson | first = Pablo R. | coauthors = Maria Clara Castellanos, Juan Carlos Pizarro, Mariaximena Garavito | year = 2002 | title = Effects of Seed Dispersal by Three Ateline Monkey Species on Seed Germination at Tinigua National Park, Colombia | journal = International Journal of Primatology | volume = 23 | issue = 6 | pages = 1187–1204 | doi = 10.1023/A:1021118618936 ]

The interaction between figs and fig wasps is especially well-known (see section on reproduction, above). In addition to their pollinators, "Ficus" species are exploited by a group of non-pollinating chalcidoid wasps whose larvae develop in its figs. Both pollinating and non-pollinating wasps serve as hosts for parasitoid wasps. In addition to "T. americanus", "F. maxima" figs from Brazil were found to contain non-pollinating wasps belonging to the genus "Critogaster", mites, ants, beetles, and dipteran and lepidopteran larvae.cite journal | quotes = no | last = Nazareno | first = Alison G. | coauthors = Ranyse B. Querino da SilvaII; Rodrigo A. S. Pereira | year = 2007 | title = Fauna de Hymenoptera em "Ficus" spp. (Moraceae) na Amazônia Central, Brasil | journal = Iheringia. Série Zoologia, Porto Alegre | volume = 97 | issue = 4 | pages = 441–46 | doi = 10.1590/S0073-47212007000400013 | url = | language = Pt icon ] Norwegian biologist Frode Ødegaard recorded a total of 78 phytophagous (plant-eating) insect species on a single "F. maxima" tree in Panamanian dry forest—59 wood eating insects, 12 which fed on green plant parts, and 7 flower visitors. It supported the fourth most specialised phytophagous insect fauna and the second largest wood-feeding insect fauna among the 24 tree species sampled.cite journal | quotes = no | last = Ødegaard | first = Frode | year = 2000 | title = The relative importance of trees versus lianas as hosts for phytophagous beetles (Coleoptera) in tropical forests | journal = Journal of Biogeography | volume = 27 | issue = 2 | pages = 283–96 | doi = 10.1046/j.1365-2699.2000.00404.x ]


"Ficus maxima" is used by the Lacandon Maya to treat snakebite. Leaves are moistened by chewing and applied to the bite. In the provinces of Loja and Zamora-Chinchipe in Ecuador, a leaf infusion is used to treat internal inflammations.cite journal | quotes = no | last = Tene | first = Vicente | authorlink = | coauthors = Omar Malagón; Paola Vita Finzi; Giovanni Vidari; Chabaco Armijos; Tomás Zaragoza | year = 2007 | title = An ethnobotanical survey of medicinal plants used in Loja and Zamora-Chinchipe, Ecuador | journal = Journal of Ethnopharmacology | volume = 111 | issue = 1 | pages = 63–81 | doi = 10.1016/j.jep.2006.10.032 | url = ] The Paya of Honduras use the species for firewood, and to treat gingivitis.cite journal | quotes = no | last = Lentz | first = David L. | year = 1993 | title = Medicinal and other economic plants of the Paya of Honduras. | journal = Economic Botany | volume = 47 | issue = 4 | pages = 358–70 | doi = 10.1007/BF02907349 | url = ] The Tacana of Bolivia use the latex to treat intestinal parasites, as do people in Guatemala's Petén Department.cite journal | quotes = no | last = Mutchnick | first = Patrice A. | coauthors = Brian C. McCarthy | year = 1997 | title = An ethnobotanical analysis of the tree species common to the subtropical moist forests of the Petén, Guatemala | journal = Economic Botany | volume = 52 | issue = 1 | pages = 158–83 | doi = 10.1007/BF02893110 ] In Brazil it is used as an anthelmintic, antirheumatic, anti-anaemic and antipyretic.cite journal | quotes = no | last = Diaz M. | first = Gaspar | authorlink = | coauthors = Alberto C. Arruda; Mara S. P. Arruda; Adolfo H. Müller | year = 1997 | title = Methoxyflavones from "Ficus maxima" | journal = Phytochemistry | volume = 45 | issue = 8 | pages = 1697–99 | doi = 10.1016/S0031-9422(96)00729-7 | url = ] The latex is also used to bind limestone soils to produce cal, an adobe cement.

Gaspar Diaz M. and colleagues isolated four methoxyflavones from "F. maxima" leaves. David Lentz and colleagues observed antimicrobial activity in "Ficus maxima" extracts.cite journal | quotes = no | last = Lentz | first = David L. | coauthors = Alice M. Clark; Charles D. Hufford; Barbara Meurer-Grimes;, Claus M. Passreiter; Javier Cordero; Omar Ibrahimi; Adewole L. Okunade | year = 1998 | title = Antimicrobial properties of Honduran medicinal plants | journal = Journal of Ethnopharmacology | volume = 63 | issue = 3 | pages = 253–63 | doi = 10.1016/S0378-8741(98)00100-7 | url = ]


External links

* [ "Ficus maxima" Mill.] Trees, Shrubs, and Palms of Panama, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute Center for Tropical Forest Science.

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