Ficus sycomorus

Ficus sycomorus, called the sycamore fig or the fig-mulberry (due to the leaves' resemblance to those of the Mulberry), sycamore, or sycomore, is a fig species that has been cultivated since early times. (Note that the name sycamore has been used for a variety of plants.) Ficus sycomorus is native to Africa south of the Sahel and north of the Tropic of Capricorn, also excluding the central-west rainforest areas. It also grows naturally in the southern Arabian Peninsula and in very localized areas in Madagascar, and has been naturalised in Israel and Egypt. In its native habitat, the tree is usually found in rich soils along rivers, but also in mixed woodlands.

Ficus sycomorus grows to 20 m tall and 6 m wide with a dense round crown of spreading branches. The leaves are heart-shaped with a round apex, 14 cm long by 10 cm wide, and arranged spirally around the twig. They are dark green above and lighter with prominent yellow veins below, and both surfaces are rough to the touch. The petiole is 0.5-3 cm long and pubescent. The fruit is a large edible fig, 2-3 cm in diameter, ripening from buff-green to yellow or red. They are borne in thick clusters on long branchlets or the leaf axil. Flowering and fruiting occurs year-round, peaking from July to December. The bark is green-yellow to orange and exfoliates in papery strips to reveal the yellow inner bark. Like all other figs, it contains a latex.

F. sycomorus is in the Near Orient a tree of great importance and very extensive use. It has wide-spreading branches and affords a delightful shade. The ancient Egyptians cultivated this species "almost exclusively", according to Zohary and Hopf. Remains of F. sycomorus begin to appear in predynastic levels, and in quantity from the start of the third millennium BC. Zohary and Hopf note that "the fruit and the timber, and sometimes even the twigs, are richly represented in the tombs of Early, Middle and Late Kingdoms. In numerous cases the parched sycons bear characteristic gashing marks indicating that this art, which induces ripening, was practice in Egypt in ancient times. Although this species of fig requires the presence of the symbiotic wasp Ceratosolen arabicus to reproduce sexually, and this insect is extinct in Egypt, Zohay and Hopf have no doubt that Egypt was "the principal area of sycamore fig development." Some of the caskets of mummies in Egypt are made from the wood of this tree.

In the Bible, refers to the fruit of the sycamore, which is of an inferior character; so also probably . At Jericho, Zacchaeus climbed a sycamore-tree to see Jesus as he passed by (). King Solomon also made cedar trees as worthless as sycamore trees during his reign because of the riches of Jerusalem (1 Kings|10:27).


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