Happy National Fig Week!

November 7, 2011 at 1:23 pm Leave a comment

Today is the last day of National Fig Week! (Hat Tip @treeplanting). We had a pretty hearty fig tree in our front yard in Elizabeth City. It was the only planted tree that could survive the routine Hunter Street floodings.

Elizabeth City - Flood - Students Wade Home
Our Fig Tree in a Flood (Lower Left Hand)

I knew that fig tree was quite the survivor and I sure loved snacking on its handiwork whenever I let the dogs do their business. But until last week I had no idea the intricacies involved with how that species propagated itself and thrived.

Recently I was reading The Tree: A Natural History of What Trees Are, How They Live, and Why They Matter by Colin Tudge. I’ve found it absolutely fascinating and filled with delightful tidbits of tree trivia. For example, I learned that figs are pollinated by fig wasps and that each species of fig has its very own brand of fig wasp.

“There were a lot of wasps around that tree,” Ryan noted when I told him. I had been completely oblivious. Some naturalist I am!

It gets better though! Those delicious figs I had been munching on– They were the final resting spots of female wasps who got trapped inside! All this time, I had been defiling wasp tombs! How fitting that National Fig Week is adjacent to Halloween!

Ephesus - fig tree
Future Wasp Coffins! Nom Nom Nom (Photo by epicuriosa)

There is no cause for disgust though– the fig breaks down the wasp’s corpse and digests it. By the time I got to it, the dead wasp was long gone.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. The whole relationship between the Fig and the Fig Wasp is quite amazing (including how the newly hatched males wasps’ only purpose in life is to fertilize the young females and then dig tunnels for them to escape). For further reading (assuming you don’t have Colin Tudge’s book handy), check out How Stuff Works – Are Figs Really Full of Baby Wasps?

Entry filed under: Colin Tudge, Fig, trees, Uncategorized.

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