Ref: ITIS 19081
as of 2002-08-3
Figs (Genus Ficus) are a group of woody, tropical vines, trees and shrubs in the Family Moraceae, which includes one species (F. carica) that produces a commercial fruit called a fig. Other examples of figs include the banyan and the peepul (or bo) tree.
A fig is actually a specially adapted flower. The fruit has a bulbous shape (an accessory fruit called a syconium) with a small opening (the ostiole) in the end and a hollow area inside lined with small red edible seeds. The fruit/flower is pollinated by small wasps that crawl through the opening to fertilise the fruit.
The common fig, Ficus carica, a native of the Mediterranean area, is cultivated for its fruit. In the United States, figs are grown in California, Texas, Utah, Oregon, and Washington.Figs can be eaten fresh or dried, and used in jam-making.
Figs come in two sexes: hermaphrodite (called caprifigs because only goats eat them) and female. Fig wasps grow in caprifigs; when they mature, they mate, and the females leave in search of immature figs to lay their eggs in. When the wasp finds one, she pollinates the female flowers but will not lay eggs in the edible fig, only in the caprifig. Thus the edible fig ripens without any wasp frass in it.
When a caprifig ripens, another caprifig must be ready to be pollinated. Tropical figs bear continuously, enabling fruit-eating animals to survive the time between masts. In temperate climes, wasps hibernate in figs, and there are distinct crops. Caprifigs have three crops per year; edible figs have two. The first of the two is small and is called breba; the breba figs are olynths. In Christian legend, Adam and Eve clad themselves with fig leaves after eating the apple from the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil.