Ficus sycomorus

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Indigenous tree. Fig tree.

Scientific name: Ficus carica;

English Name: Wild fig

Local Name: Mukuyu (T)

General information


Ficus sycomorus is a large, semi-deciduous, common savannah tree that grows in high water table areas spreading up to 21 (max. 46) m, occasionally supported. Bark on young stems pale green with a soft powdery covering; on older stems, grey-green, fairly smooth, with scattered grey scales and pale brown patches where scales have fallen off. Slash pale pink with heavy latex flow. The sycamore fig is sensitive to frost but can withstand some cold.

Livestock benefits:


Leaves are a much-sought fodder with fairly high nutritive value (9% crude protein and 7 mJ/kg net energy dry matter); they are valuable fodder in overstocked semi-arid areas where the trees occur naturally. Fruits are eaten by livestock, wild animals and birds.

Farmer benefits:

 Shed leaves form a valuable litter improving the nutrient status, infiltration rate and water-holding capacity of the soil. It is usually intercropped with bananas as an understory.

Health benefits

 The bark is used for the treatment of scrofula, coughs, and throat and chest diseases. The milky latex is used for treatment of dysentery and chest diseases, or is applied to inflamed areas, while ringworm is treated with the bark and milky latex. Leaves are said to be effective against jaundice and as an antidote for snakebite, while the roots have laxative and anthelmintic properties.

Human benefits

Mature fruits are eaten fresh, stewed, or dried and stored for later use. Fruit can also be used for the preparation of an alcoholic beverage. Leaves are used in soups and groundnut dishes. It can also be used as firewood and for making charcoal; various peoples throughout Africa use a piece of dry wood from this tree as the base block when starting a fire by the friction method. The wood is creamy brown, has a fairly uniform structure, is very light (air-dry 510 kg/m3), soft to moderately hard, tough, strong, easy to work, finishes smoothly and holds nails firmly. It is not very durable and is easily attacked by termites. Mainly used for making mortars and pestles, drums, stools, doors, beehives, dugout canoes, carvings and for house building.

Propagation and planting

Ficus sycomorus is large, spreading and very shady, and therefore requires considerable spacing. It tolerates lopping. Continuous and adequate water supply is necessary for high yields, but rainfall during fruiting may cause fruits to split and favor growth of fungal rots. The best site for trees is next to drainage lines, streams, rivers, springs or dams. A tree can bear several crops of fruit a year. The invasive root system should be borne in mind when positioning trees. Wild fig does well in a container if pruned once or twice a year. Growth rate is fairly fast at 1-1.5 m/year in frost-free areas.

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