Description and Diversity of Ficus
– Ficus is a genus of about 850 species of woody trees, shrubs, vines, epiphytes, and hemiepiphytes.
– They are native throughout the tropics, with a few species extending into the semi-warm temperate zone.
– The common fig (F.carica) is a temperate species native to southwest Asia and the Mediterranean region.
– Figs have aerial roots and a distinctive shape or habit.
– Ficus is the most species-rich plant genus in many tropical forests.
– In Asia, as many as 70 or more Ficus species can coexist.
– Ficus species richness declines with an increase in latitude in both hemispheres.
– Adaptive radiation has led to high levels of alpha diversity in figs with different plant habits.
– The weeping fig, rough-leaved sandpaper figs, and creeping fig are examples of well-known fig species.

Fig Fruit and Reproduction System
– Figs are grown for their fruits, with Ficus carica being the most cultivated species for this purpose.
– Fig fruits are multiple fruits known as syconiums, derived from an arrangement of small flowers on a nearly closed receptacle.
– The flowers are pollinated by small wasps that crawl through the opening of the fruit.
– Fig plants can be monoecious or gynodioecious, with some plants having long styled pistillate flowers and others having staminate flowers.
– Native fig trees in the American continent are hermaphrodites, while some species are gynodioecious.

Fig Pollination System and Mutualism with Fig Wasps
– Fig wasps are tiny, highly specific wasps that enter figs to both pollinate and lay their eggs.
– The fig pollination system has been a constant source of inspiration for biologists.
– Figs have three unique vegetative traits: white to yellowish latex, paired stipules, and steep lateral veins at the base of the leaf.
– The fig pollination system has coevolved with the wasps, providing a safe haven and nourishment for their larvae.
– Introduction of fig species outside their native range results in sterile individuals.
– Mutualism between fig plants and fig wasps benefits both organisms.
– Reproductive coevolution between figs and wasps is supported by morphological and genetic evidence.

Age and Fossil Record of Ficus
– Ficus is a relatively ancient genus, estimated to be at least 60 million years old.
– Molecular clock estimates suggest the main radiation of extant species occurred between 20 and 40 million years ago.
– No unambiguous older fossils of Ficus are known.
– The genus Dorstenia, also in the fig family, exhibits similar tiny flowers arranged on a receptacle.
– Ficus species like the common fig have been widely cultivated and have cultural importance throughout the tropics.

Cultural and Spiritual Significance of Ficus
– Fig trees have influenced culture through religious traditions.
– Sacred fig tree (Ficus religiosa) and other banyan figs are significant in various religions.
– Oldest living plant of known planting date is a Ficus religiosa tree in Sri Lanka.
– Fig tree mentioned in the Bible and considered sacred in ancient Greece and Cyprus.
– Buddha found enlightenment under a sacred fig tree. Source URL:

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