Strangler Fig Facts
- Strangler Fig serves as the collective name of a group of tropical fig species with one trait in common. All of these species represent members of the Ficus genus.
- Their common trait remains a most unusual method of growth and reproduction. This group begins its life as a sticky seed.
- When a random animal transfers this seed to a high tree branch, the seed sprouts there.
- As it grows, it sends shoots downward. Once these reach the ground they thicken and spread.
- Eventually, the invader has encompassed the trunk of the host tree.
- Its own root system will out-compete that of the host species.
- The host tree eventually dies and rots away.
Strangler Fig Physical Description
Most forms of Strangler Fig begin life as a sticky seed, deposited on a tree limb or branch. This usually happens via the action of birds, bats, or monkeys who have previously eaten the fruit.
The seed later sprouts, and long roots descend along the trunk of the tree. Once it reaches the soil, this root digs in and anchors itself tightly.
Typically, several roots do this, and the result encircles the tree, eventually killing it by depriving it of sunlight.
Strangler Fig Distribution and Ecology
The Strangler Fig actually constitutes a vitally important plant species. It plays several roles within the ecosystems it inhabits.
This is especially true in many tropical forests. In fact, most species are considered to be keystone species within their particular ecosystems.
While the genus inhabits tropical forests worldwide, it remains especially prevalent in South America.
A hollow center where the host tree had rotted away commonly serves as both shelters and breeding grounds for numerous species of birds, bats, and assorted other small animals.
The Strangler Fig itself also provides food to a wide variety of animal species. Its fruits rank among the most nutritious available, both for animals and humans alike.