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Description and ecology
This is a tree with buttress roots which ranges from 8–40 m (25–130 ft) tall. Although it is a freestanding tree when mature, F. insipida begins its growth as a climbing vine. It clings to a mature tree, eventually strangling it. Its favored hosts are Guarea tuisana and Sapium pachystachys, and it is also frequently found on already-dead trees.
Leaves vary shape from narrow to ellipse-shaped; they range from 5–25 cm (2–10 in) long and from 2–11 cm (0.8–4 in) wide. It flowers February to April and bears warty, yellow-green fruit 4–6 cm in diameter. Though they are edible like most figs, as the scientific name (literally "insipid fig") implies they are of unremarkable taste. Monkeys feed on fruits still on the tree, and fallen fruits are eaten by peccaries.
Two subspecies can be distinguished:
- Ficus insipida ssp. insipida Willd.
- Ficus insipida ssp. scabra C.C.Berg
Use by humans
The wood is soft, but it is used for construction purposes where durability is not important.
Ficus insipida is used by wajacas (shamans) of the Craós (Krahós, Krahô) tribe in Brazil as a memory enhancer. Its latex is also employed in South American folk medicine as the anthelmintic called ojé, but as it is toxic it must be used with care.
Maya codices (singular codex) are folding books stemming from the pre-Columbian Maya civilization, written in Maya hieroglyphic script on Mesoamerican bark cloth, Amatl, made from the inner bark of certain trees, the main being the wild fig tree or Amate (Ficus glabrata; a synonym of the Ficus insipida).
- MBG [2008a,b]
- Haber (2000), MBG [2008a]
- DeWolf (1960), Daniels (1991)
- DeWolf (1960)
- Rodrigues & Carlini (2006)
- Hansson et al. (2005)
- Daniels, James D. (1991): Habitat and Host Preferences of Ficus crassiuscula, A Neotropical Strangling Fig of the Lower-Montane Rain Forest. J. Ecol. 79(1): 129–141.
- DeWolf, Gordon P. Jr. (1960): Ficus (Tourn.) L.. In: Nevling, Lorin I. Jr.: Flora of Panama. Part IV. Fascicle II. Ann. MO Bot. Gard. 47(2): 81–203. First page image
- Haber, William (2000): An Introduction to Cloud Forest Trees. Mountain Gem Publications, Monteverde de Puntarenas, Costa Rica. ISBN 9977-12-418-3
- Hansson, Anders; Zelada, Julio C. & Noriega, Hugo P. (2005): Reevaluation of risks with the use of Ficus insipida latex as a traditional anthelmintic remedy in the Amazon. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 98(3): 251–257. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2004.12.029 (HTML abstract)
- Missouri Botanical Garden (MBG) [2008a]: Flora de Nicaragua – Ficus insipida [in Spanish]. Retrieved 2008-NOV-01.
- Missouri Botanical Garden (MBG) [2008b]: Tropicos.org – Ficus insipida synonyms. Retrieved 2008-JUN-29.
- Rodrigues, Eliana & Carlini, E.A. (2006): Plants with possible psychoactive effects used by the Krahô Indians, Brazil. Revista Brasileira de Psiquiatria 28(4): 277–282. PDF fulltext