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Deciduous Fig (Ficus henneana) | by Poytr
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Deciduous Fig (Ficus henneana)

This tree grows next to the Pacific Highway, thousands of cars drive past it every day. This 16 metre tall tree is likely to be an original rainforest remnant, as the bole is relatively long. And the upper trunk is covered with masses of the Button Orchid (Dockrillia linguiformis).


The trunk shows twists and irregularities, perhaps remnants from its former life as a hemiepiphyte on a long vanished tree host. Now it is a host itself to the orchid epiphytes. Quite a small tree for this species. But of some considerable age, perhaps over 200 years old at a guess.


This tree species was collected by Joseph Banks in 1770. As Banks was wealthy, he didn't bother with the follow-up paperwork as collectors usually do. Eventually, in 1901 his specimen was called Ficus parkinsonii named after the artist on Captain Cook's ship, Sydney Parkinson.


However, in the mean time, the German collector Diedrich Henne also collected it from the same island in Torres strait in 1861. His sample became the type specimen, and the tree was named in his honour. After a fair amount of name changes, the "new" name reverts to Ficus henneana, as suggested by Friedrich Miquel.


In the background is another ficus tree. But it is a planted tree, not an original rainforest tree. You can tell by the short trunk. From a distance it seems to resemble F. rubiginosa.


From a personal point of view, this is my favourite highway tree. It grows on a dairy cattle farm, on flat land on the Manning River delta. It's hard to imagine this river flat as it was in 1770, likely to be covered in sub tropical rainforest. And just imagine the effort it took to clear the land. And to speculate on how this one fig tree survived (with all of those orchids).

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Taken on September 8, 2014