The Strangler fig is a tropical, evergreen tree with shiny, leathery leaves and smooth, light gray bark. It is native to southern Florida and tropical America. Ficus aurea is a large spreading tree which can reach 60 or more feet in height, although typically smaller. It has a dense, broad spreading irregular rounded crown with horizontal lower branches often with epiphytes, making the tree as wide as it is tall. The lower limbs have secondary roots developing into slim rigid trunks when they reach the ground. The tree may form large surface roots. Leaves are bright green, alternate, oval, simple, with wavy margins and 4 - 6 inches long. Flowers occur inside the fruits and are oval, round, fleshy, edible, green to yellow and less than 1/2 inch long. They are pollinated by specialty wasps. Strangler fig has an unusual natural life cycle. Seeds dispersed by fruit-eating birds, germinate in the canopy of a host tree. Seedlings live as epiphytes on the tree until they reach the ground, enlarge, strangle and kill the host tree and replace it. The tree will grow on a range of soils, dry to wet and is very hardy once established. As a large foliage tree, strangler fig needs considerable space for growth, and hence is best suited to large gardens and parks as an unusual specimen tree. It is appropriate for a native tree garden. Strangler fig can also be grown in a small pot as a bonsai. Zones 9-12.
Seeds are stored in a refrigerator to maintain viability.
- The seeds like moist, well-drained soil. Prepare a mixture of half potting soil and half sand, perlite or vermiculite. Put the soil in a pot. Water the mixture so that it is moist but not wet.
- Sow the seeds on the surface of the mix. Do not cover; the seeds need light to germinate.
- Water the seeds.
- Set the container outdoors in full sunlight or partial shade if temperatures are above 77 degrees Fahrenheit. If temperatures are too low, keep the container indoors under artificial lights.
- Keep the soil moist; do not allow it to dry out. Germination takes between 15 and 90 days.
- Transplant seedlings into individual containers when the second set of leaves, or true leaves, appear.