The fig (Ficus carica) is a tree that produces a fleshy, sweet fruit. According to the University of Texas A&M, the fruit is actually part of the stem structure, as opposed to the matured ovary tissue that grows on most fruit trees. This is known as syconium. Figs come in four horticultural types, all with similar growing requirements.
The fig tree started in Old World tropics, and the Asia Minor and Mediterranean regions, according to the University of Florida IFAS Extension. Fig trees have been cultivated in the region since 5000 B.C. Fig was introduced to the Americas in 1575 by Spanish explorers in the Florida region.
Fig comes in four main types, Caprifig, Smyrna, San Pedro and common fig, says the University of Texas A&M. The Caprifig produces a small, non-edible fruit, but the pollen that grows inside the flower is important for the fertilization of the Smyrna and San Pedro tree varieties. The Smyrna produces an edible fruit that also contains true seed. San Pedro produces two crops of fruit in the same season, one on the previous season's bud growth and a fruit on the new season's buds. The common fig does not require pollination to fruit, producing on the current season's wood.
The fig is a deciduous tree with bright green foliage, with tiny flowers that are covered by the fruit. Figs can grow to a height of 50 feet, but are more commonly between 10 to 30 feet, according to the California Rare Fruit Growers organization. The fig's trunk is often twisted with knots from damaged or removed branches. The fig produces a sap composed of a milky latex material, which irritates human skin when touched.
Figs need full sunlight to properly ripen their fruit. Pruning is required to allow ample sunlight into the canopy of the tree for maximum fruit production. Whitewashing is necessary, however, to keep the delicate branches from burning. Fig tree roots grow close to the surface, meaning soil dries out quickly. The leaves will wilt slightly in the afternoon when there is not enough water. Figs require ripening on the tree before harvesting to produce the best quality fruit. Regular pruning on a daily basis will reduce the chance of figs rotting, which can cause disease.
Pests and Diseases
Animal pests and disease are the greatest problems for fig trees. Birds, gophers, rabbits and squirrels are the most common animal pests, as they enjoy feeding on the fruit. The most common diseases are root-knot nematodes, caused by soil-inhabiting worms, fig rust caused by fungal infection and thread blight, which causes a necrosis of the branches and fruit.