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Trees or shrubs, monoecious, terrestrial or hemi-epiphytic and then with aerial roots and often strangling (the host tree). Leaves alternate in spirals; stipules fully amplexicaul, free; blade entire, pinnately veined, with one or two (waxy) glandular spots at the base of the primary vein beneath. Inflorescences (figs, syconia) solitary, or in pairs in the leaf axils, or just below the leaves or on spurs in the leaf axils and on the older wood, bisexual, pedunculate or sessile, receptacle urceolate, subtended by 2 or 3 bracts (= basal bracts), the apical opening (ostiole) closed by interlocking bracts. Staminate flowers numerous to several, tepals 2-6, free or basally connate; stamens 1 or 2; pistillode absent or present. Pistillate flowers numerous, pedicellate or sessile; tepals 2-4, free or basally connate; ovary free, stigmas 1 or 2; pistillate flowers more or less differentiated into seed flowers (to produce seeds) and gall flowers (to hatch the larvae of fig wasps, the pollinators), seed flowers often (sub)sessile and with relatively long styles, gall flowers usually pedicellate, with relatively short styles. Fruiting perianth hardly enlarged, membranous; fruits free, achenes or slightly drupaceous; seeds small, with endosperm, cotyledons flat and equal.


Guianas present, Neotropics present, Pantropical present
Pantropical, with approx. 750 species, of which approx. 150 species in the Neotropics. In the Guianas 24 (or 31), possibly 28 (or 36) species (see below); moreover, 7 introduced and cultivated species.

Common Name

Creole: abrasa, figuier, kato, kattatay, kumakaballi


L. 1754: Gen. Pl., ed. 5: 482


Two of the subgenera and sections occur in the Neotropics:
  1. Pharmacosycea sect. Pharmacosycea: trees, terrestrial; two ± lateral waxy (glandular) spots at the base of the primary vein beneath; figs usually solitary in the leaf axils; basal bracts 3; stamens 2; stigmas 2. (Species numbered ll, 17 and 24).
  2. Urostigma sect. Americana: trees, often hemi-epiphytic; one median waxy (glandular) spot at the base of the primary vein beneath; figs in pairs in the leaf axils or on spurs, also on the older wood; basal bracts mostly 2; stamen 1; stigma 1. (Species numbered 1-10, 12-16, 18-23, and 25-27).

Wood observation species

F. albert-smithii, F. amazonica, F. broadwayi, F. guianensis, F. insipida, F. krukovii, F. maxima, F. nymphaeifolia, F. paludica


Vessels diffuse, solitary (30-70%) and in short radial multiples and irregular clusters of 2-4, round and oval, 2-5 per sq. mm, diameter 135-205 μm. Vessel-member length: 365-515 μm. Perforations simple. Intervascular pits alternate, round, oval to polygonal, 8-12 μm. Vessel-ray and vessel-parenchyma pits larger and irregularly shaped, sometimes tending to scalariform, half-bordered and often with much reduced borders, sometimes unilaterally compound. Tyloses, if present, thin-walled.
Rays uniseriate and 3-9-seriate, 5-7 per mm, up to 470-755 μm high. Heterogeneous, composed of procumbent cells, except for the uniseriate margins of 1-2 rows of square and/or upright cells. Sheath cells scarce. Rhombic crystals few, mostly in marginal ray cells. Radial latex tubes present, but scarce.
Parenchyma abundant, apotracheal in regular concentric bands of 3-7(10) cells wide, 1-3 bands per mm, and paratracheal in narrow vasicentric rings. Strands of 4-6 cells. Rhombic crystals scarce.
Fibres non-septate, lumen 10-25 μm, walls 2-4 μm. Pits simple, small, restricted to the radial walls. Gelatinous fibres present in varying amounts. Length: 1020-1685 μm. F/V ratio: 2.6-3.6.


In the Neotropics some wide-spread species complexes occur (Berg & Simonis, Ernstia 6: 1-12. 1981). The taxonomic status of the mor- phological entities which can be recognized within these complexes is uncertain. In the present treatment these entities are provisionally treated as species.