Ficus carica
Photo by Forest and Kim Starr

edible fig

Ratings

  • This plant has a Plant Risk Evaluator rating of No PRE Rating
  • This plant has been rated Moderate by the California Invasive Plant Council

Description

Edible fig (Ficus carica) is the familiar fig tree that produces edible fruit sold fresh, dried and in Fig Newtons and other sweets. It is one of the earliest known fruits to be cultivated, with records dating back to roughly 4900 years ago in Mesopotamia. It was introduced to California by Spanish missionaries in 1769, which is why it is also called Mission fig. Research is underway to determine which cultivars of fig become invasive.

Mature fig trees often have multiple trunks and may grow 30 ft. tall, with smooth, light gray, flaky bark and bright green leaves in the classic fig-leaf shape. They are deciduous, dropping their leaves in mid to late autumn and leafing out again in early spring.

It is unclear how edible fig spreads into preserves and other wild areas. Many birds eat the fruit and may be spreading the seeds. The seeds only germinate if the fleshy part of the fruit has been removed by an animal during digestion or by mechanical means such as heavy rainfall. Limbs that have been broken and fallen to the ground can also take root. Some branches may break off during storms and be washed downstream.

Ficus carica has invaded and dominated riparian forests, streamside habitats, levees, and canal banks in the Central Valley, surrounding foothills, south coast, and Channel Islands. It is most likely to escape where soil remains moist during the summer. See CalWeedMapper for its current distribution outside of cultivation.

Why is this plant not included on the invasive plant list?

Ficus carica was considered in 2006 and 2016. It was not added to the nursery survey because it is an important food crop. In 2013, 28,900 tons of fruit were harvested from the 7,300 commercial acres in California, and the crop had a market value of $15.5 million (UC Davis Fruit and Nut Research and Information).