Species list


Ficus carica

Common fig

Common fig, fig (Eng); higuera, brevera (Spa); figuera (Cat); pikotze (Baq); figueira (Glg); figueira (Por).


“Figs were a treat for the ancient people of the Canaries, and proof of this is the tooth decay so common among them.”

Jacob Morales Mateos, Gran Canarian archaeobotanist


This is a shrub or small tree that rarely exceeds 5 or 6 m in height. Its trunk is ash grey and smooth, like the leg of an elephant, but it is often twisted. The leaves are large, simple, alternate, deciduous, rough to the touch and palmate with 3-5, usually irregular lobes, which make them asymmetric. The contour of the lobes may be smooth or toothed. In addition the leaves contain latex, which can be seen very well when cutting the leaf stalk. Flowering and fruiting occurs in the summer. There are individuals whose male flowers are not functional, and which therefore act as females, producing high yields of fruit; on others the female flowers are non-functional, these individuals act as males and do not produce figs; there are also trees that produce figs without pollination (asexually), and all possibilities in between. In fact, the fruit of the fig tree does not arise from a single flower, but from numerous tiny simple, adjoining flowers that are hidden in a deep, cup-shaped receptacle. This fruit can be up to 8 cm long, is globose or pear-shaped, green to purple in colour, and has sweet fleshy pulp.


This species is indifferent to substrate, although it prefers deep, dry soils in sunny spots, as long as there is sufficient moisture in the subsoil. The fig tree is typical of the island landscapes and can be found growing from sea level to altitudes of more than 1000 m.


As it has been extensively cultivated since ancient times, its exact origin is not known, although it appears to have come from the Mediterranean basin. It is currently distributed across southern Europe, northern Africa and west-central Asia, and there are numerous cultivated varieties. In the Canary Islands it was grown for its fruit, and today it can be found established in the wild on all the islands in the archipelago.