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The Strangler Fig. Strangler Fig is the common name for a number of tropical plant species, including some banyans and unrelated vines, namely: Ficus aurea , also known as the Florida Strangler Fig Ficus barbata , also known as the Bearded Fig Ficus watkinsiana Ficus obliqua

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The Strangler Fig

Strangler Fig is the common name for a number of tropicalplant species, including some banyans and unrelated vines, namely:

Ficusaurea, also known as the Florida Strangler Fig

Ficusbarbata, also known as the Bearded Fig





They all share a common "strangling" growth habit that is found in many tropical forest species, particularly of the genus Ficus.

This growth habit is an adaptation for growing in dark forests where the competition for light is intense.

These plants begin life as epiphytes, when their seeds, often bird or bat dispersed, germinate in crevices atop other trees.

At this point this is a case of commensalism: one organism benefits while the other is unaffected.


WHY would a strangler fig need to start growing

at the top of a tree rather than on the ground?


Once the fig has established itself on the host tree, it begins to send down root tendrils, which can either dangle freely or wrap around the host tree's trunk.

When the roots reach the soil and begin taking in nutrients from it, the plant becomes known as a hemi-epiphyte.

When two root tendrils from a strangler fig touch, they fuse together. Because the roots wrap around the trunk of the host tree, they overlap a lot and eventually form a mesh that completely encircles the host.


As the strangler fig grows big enough to be a tree in its own right, it begins to harm its host.

The roots thicken and tighten enough to prevent the host tree from growing wider - literally, strangling it.

Worse, the strangler competes with the host for water, nutrients, and sunlight.

Typically, the host tree dies, and eventually decomposes, leaving the fig tree standing independently on its now strong and woody, but hollow, root mesh.