New Book ** Edible Perennials: 50 Top perennials from Plants For A Future. Current interest in forest or woodland garden designs reflects an awareness that permanent mixed plantings are inherently more sustainable than annual monocultures. They safeguard and enrich soil ecosystems... more >>

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Ficus carica - L.                
Common Name Fig, Edible fig, Fig Common
Family Moraceae
USDA hardiness 6-11
Known Hazards The sap and the half-ripe fruits are said to be poisonous[20, 89]. The sap can be a serious eye irritant[238].
Habitats Amongst rocks, in woods and scrub on hot dry soils.
Range W. Asia. Occasionally found self-sown in Britain, especially in the south-west.
Edibility Rating  
Medicinal Rating  
Fully Hardy Well drained soil Moist Soil Full sun

Bloom Color: Green, Yellow. Main Bloom Time: Early spring, Late spring, Mid spring. Form: Spreading or horizontal, Upright or erect.

Physical Characteristics       
 icon of manicon of lolypop
Ficus carica is a deciduous Tree growing to 6 m (19ft) by 6 m (19ft) at a medium rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 7 and is not frost tender. It is in flower from Jun to September, and the seeds ripen from Aug to September. The flowers are monoecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but both sexes can be found on the same plant)The plant is self-fertile.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in heavy clay and nutritionally poor soils. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers dry or moist soil and can tolerate drought.

Ficus carica Fig, Edible fig, Fig Common

Ficus carica Fig, Edible fig, Fig Common
Woodland Garden Sunny Edge; South Wall. By. West Wall. By.
Edible Uses                                         
Edible Parts: Fruit.
Edible Uses: Curdling agent.

Fruit - raw or cooked[1, 3, 3, 4, 46]. Sweet and succulent, a fully ripe specimen is an exquisite fruit that almost literally melts in the mouth[K]. The fruit is often dried for later use[183] and this dried fruit is a major item of commerce. Figs are usually pear-shaped and up to 5cm in diameter[200]. A nutritional analysis is available[218]. The latex from the sap can be used to coagulate plant milks[183].
Figures in grams (g) or miligrams (mg) per 100g of food.
Fruit (Dry weight)
  • 352 Calories per 100g
  • Water : 0%
  • Protein: 6g; Fat: 1.2g; Carbohydrate: 89g; Fibre: 7g; Ash: 3.8g;
  • Minerals - Calcium: 220mg; Phosphorus: 133mg; Iron: 2.7mg; Magnesium: 0mg; Sodium: 9mg; Potassium: 862mg; Zinc: 0mg;
  • Vitamins - A: 347mg; Thiamine (B1): 0.25mg; Riboflavin (B2): 0.25mg; Niacin: 2mg; B6: 0mg; C: 9.22mg;
  • Reference: [ 218]
  • Notes:
Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

Cancer;  Demulcent;  Digestive;  Emollient;  Galactogogue;  Laxative;  Pectoral;  Stings;  Stomachic;  Tonic;  Warts.

A decoction of the leaves is stomachic[218]. The leaves are also added to boiling water and used as a steam bath for painful or swollen piles[218]. The latex from the stems is used to treat corns, warts and piles[4, 89, 218]. It also has an analgesic effect against insect stings and bites[7]. The fruit is mildly laxative, demulcent, digestive and pectoral[4, 7, 218]. The unripe green fruits are cooked with other foods as a galactogogue and tonic[218]. The roasted fruit is emollient and used as a poultice in the treatment of gumboils, dental abscesses etc[4]. Syrup of figs, made from the fruit, is a well-known and effective gentle laxative that is also suitable for the young and very old[254, K]. A decoction of the young branches is an excellent pectoral[7]. The plant has anticancer properties[218].
Other Uses
Wood - pliable but porous and of little value[4, 89]. It is used for hoops, garlands, ornaments etc[89]. When saturated with oil and covered with emery is used as a substitute for a hone[4].
Cultivation details                                         
Landscape Uses:Container, Specimen. Requires a well-drained medium to light loam and some lime rubble incorporated into the soil[1]. Succeeds in dry soils. A heavy wet soil tends to encourage excessive plant growth at the expense of fruit production[1]. Prefers a very sunny position but tolerates part-day shade when grown on a warm wall[202]. Plants are hardy to about -15°c[202]. The top growth is susceptible to frost damage and can be killed back to the base in severe winters, though plants usually recover well[3]. Trees require the protection of a south or west facing wall in most parts of Britain if they are to produce a worthwhile crop[3, 219], though free standing trees can succeed in Cornwall[59]. There is a small orchard of free-standing trees in Anthony garden near Plymouth. These were seen in July 1995 with a very heavy crop of ripening fruits that would have been ready by August[K]. Figs are very widely cultivated in warmer climes than Britain for their edible fruit, there are many named varieties[183]. 'Brown Turkey' is the cultivar most commonly grown in Britain and is probably the most suitable for this climate. 'White Ischia' is a dwarf cultivar (though it can still be 5 metres tall and wide) and is ideal for pot culture[238]. It produces an abundance of green-white thin-skinned fruits[238]. Up to three crops of fruit a year can be obtained in some countries[46]. When grown outdoors in Britain only one crop is usually obtained, though in exceptionally hot years two crops are sometimes produced. The fruit usually takes about 12 months to mature in Britain, baby fruits no larger than about 15mm long in the autumn usually overwinter to form the following years crop of fruit. If plants are grown in pots in a conservatory or cold greenhouse, two crops of fruit can be obtained, one in early summer and one in late summer to autumn[260]. Pinch back the new shoots to about six leaves in order to encourage the second crop[260]. It is a good idea to restrict the roots of fig trees on most soil types in order to discourage excessive vegetative growth at the expense of fruit production[3]. This can be done by root pruning, but it is easier to place some kind of permanent restriction around the roots - planting into a large tub that is then buried into the ground is one method. It is important to make sure that the tree still gets ample moisture, especially when the fruits are ripening. Special Features: Attractive foliage, Not North American native, Invasive, Inconspicuous flowers or blooms.
Seed - sow spring in a warm greenhouse. Prick out the seedlings as soon as they are large enough to handle and overwinter the young plants in a greenhouse for at least their first year. Plant out in late spring after the last expected frosts and give some protection for their first winter outdoors. Cuttings of mature wood 10 - 12cm with a heel, winter in a frame. Fairly easy, but the cuttings must be kept frost free. It is probably best if the cuttings are put in individual pots[78]. Layering.
Related Plants                                         
Latin NameCommon NameEdibility RatingMedicinal Rating
Ficus coronataSandpaper Fig00
Ficus macrophyllaMoreton Bay Fig10
Ficus palmataWild Fig, Punjab fig21
Opuntia ficus-indicaPrickly Pear, Barbary fig32
Rubus magnificus 20
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Expert comment                                         
Botanical References                                         
Links / References                                         
For a list of references used on this page please go here
Readers comment                                         
Elizabeth H.
T.H. Culhane Tue Jun 13 20:06:41 2000
Since writing I've learned the same about the sap of Ficus benjamina (dermatitis causing). Since there is sap at the base of the leaves, I'm staying clear from it for now.
Elizabeth H.
T.H. Culhane Tue Jun 06 22:32:52 2000
Hi, I'm fascinated by your website as it provides me useful information for my doctoral dissertation on reviving neo-traditional agroforestry resources of the Maya people.

I have been working with the edible leaves, fruit and seeds and sap of Brosimum alicastrum, the Maya breadnut tree (Moraceae) and was intrigued to note that the leaves look extremely similar to those of the ornamental ficus tree (Ficus benjamina). Recently I traveled to the Kew Gardens and was discussing with one of the curators the issue of edible leaves in the Moraceae while munching on some of the leaves from their single specimen of Brosimum (found in the Palmhouse in the Central American section).

Since I have been eating fresh and prepared Brosimum leaves for the past year in Guatemala whilst working with the Maya indigenous groups I have become curious whether Ficus benjamina leaves might not been another edible but underutilized resource. This morning, after searching for contraindications, I tested a single small ficus leaf and so far have experienced no ill effects. But before continuing with this experiment, I would like to know if you have ever heard of any indication that Ficus benjamina leaves might be toxic.

Thanks for your help.

T.H. Culhane

Elizabeth H.
k.zannettou Mon Aug 18 05:36:48 2003
k.zannettou Cyprus 19.8.2003 i am deeling with herbs as i have written two books about herbs in Cyprus for more than 670 herbs. about Ficus carica i have to say that a strong decoction of the leaves can help as an expectoral and espesially for asthma.
Elizabeth H.
Marc, Cologne, Germany, z7 Wed Feb 11 14:52:49 2004
In Germany there is a very hardy cultivar available called "Violetta" or "Bayernfeige" (Bavarian Fig). It is said to be reliably hardy to at least about -20°C!
Elizabeth H.
debby busby Sun Aug 22 22:48:04 2004
my church has one of these trees inside. We are trying to find out how we can take trimmings from it and root the trimmings? Can someone let me know how
Elizabeth H.
Lesley Eggleton Tue May 18 17:51:40 2004
Hello, Just to say your website is great and has been very helpful to me. We have just moved and was looking for info on planting etc many thanks
Elizabeth H.
salman shalchian tabrizi Sun Apr 23 2006
I love this plant using it was like a dream come true for my illness please send me whatever you have in relation with it's medical usage thanks alot
Elizabeth H.
vinod Tue Apr 4 2006
can u send the pic of ficus carica - technical details i need it badly
Elizabeth H.
Babar Ali Wed Jul 26 2006
i want work on this plant of its anticancer activity.please send me whatever you have in relation with its anticancer activity ,evaluation,standerdisation,hplc,hptlc method and other information.iwill be highly obliged to you.thank you very much.
Elizabeth H.
una Sat Aug 5 2006
I am very interested in expectorant and antiastmatic use of decoction of leaves of ficus carica and I would like to know everything about contents of that decoctum and about its toxic activity. thank you very much
Elizabeth H.
Ferit Mon Sep 24 2007
I am very interesting on Ficus carica's DNA structure and new fig variety breeding. If you would send me whatever publications on fig's DNA and genetics, I would be very happy.
Elizabeth H.
gina Mon Mar 26 2007
hi- jethro kloss in back to eden says the maerican indians used an infusion of fig leaves as a specific for anything bronchial. stuck up in the mountains one time i used it as such (5-6 cups daily) and found that it decreases the desire for tobacco incredibly. kloss also recommends it in an ointment and i have used it to great effect in the treatment of cracked heels, burns scars and eczema (dried herb infused in soy oil, wax). it is also very effective for chronic costipation and irritable bowel syndrome (2 cups before retiring). i would best categorize it as a systemic lubricant. it does exactly the opposite as salvia officinalis which is good for wet coughs and edema, however i have a theory that they may work well together. have to wait for warmer weather to gather the leaves, though.
Elizabeth H.
V. N. Viswanathan Fri Feb 22 2008 The medicinal info on figs is very interesting. Rural india uses the latex of this plant for joint pains (a plaster of a clean cloth soaked in latex placed on the joint, which sticks and turns slowly brown). Has anyone similar experience ? what is the chemical composition of fresh white latex sap and why it turns brown on exposure to air ?
Elizabeth H.
srinivas girjal Thu Dec 20 2007
sir am srinivas girjal,went trough ur article so i got intrested in the by products of this plant so i choosed my research on drying of fig. so, can u provid me nessassary information i need.i want to know the drying charaterstics,as well as drying technologies for this fruit.thanking you
Elizabeth H.
Jo Jo Fri May 1 2009
When my son picks this fruit each year,he gets a terrible rash on his arms,which fill with water,as if blisters,also the the white sap makes you itch,you have to wash with soap and water straight away.But other then that,this fruit has many benefits.

Elizabeth H.
david n Sat May 2 2009
Another hardy (zone8-11) type of fig, Ficus pumila, The climbing Fig, is said to have medicinal qualities: clears fevers, detoxifies,promotes diresis, has bacteriocidal properties and affects viruses. Used for diarrhoea, back ache, some cancers and ghonorrhea. Part used peel of fruit or stem; decoctions Max dose 32 gm. (The Asian way with herbs for New Zealanders by H.B.Cyran (this book has heaps of things I haven't seen elsewhere, I'm not entirely sure about it)) I also read somwhere the fruit are edible, but read somwhere else (Palmers Manual) they're not. Anyway friut are very rare here in New Zealand, but the plant is vigourous enough, covering houses sometimes.
Elizabeth H.
Nicola Ursino Mon Jun 15 2009
I find information about self fertility to be mostly wrong. You say: "The flowers are monoecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but both sexes can be found on the same plant)The plant is self-fertile." I suggest more research about the nature of ficus carica which is not monoecious (if you mean the edible fig). The receptacles of the edible fig contain long style FEMALE flowers only. The majority of the female fig plants (the ones found spontaneous in nature, around walls or wherever) need pollination (accomplished by a specific wasp) in order to bear fruits. There are many cultivars which are able to mature even without pollination thanks to parthenocarpy. This results in empty seeds, hence sterile. There are also cultivars which require pollination as the Calimyrna Fig. From fertile edible fig seeds, 50% will be female trees (then edible), and the other 50% will be caprifigs (ficus carica caprificus). Caprifig fruits bear male and female (short style) flowers but none of the receptacles are edible. Without this trees around, no pollination is possible because the wasps are allowed to reproduce only within the caprifig receptacles. The edible fig female flowers are too long for the wasp ovipositor, so after trying with no success to lay eggs (thus fertilizing them) in the long style female flower the wasp will eventually die. Sources: in English: in Italian:

information about fig pollination

Elizabeth H.
Nicola Ursino Sat Jun 27 2009
can you please update information about fertility? See post above. The information provided is misleading.
Elizabeth H.
David (volunteer) Sat Jun 27 2009
Nicola, there is noone updating PFAF text at present, thanks for your input, hopefully people will read it.
Elizabeth H.
Mon Dec 7 2009
sosema slucajno vlegov na ovaa stranica,agronom sum,i me iznenadija so ovakov los prevo na site komentri i prasanja koi se najduvat na stranata.neznam kako se ova sve preveduva,no sigurno e mnogu loso i nejasno e.
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Subject : Ficus carica  

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