The ficus leaf comes from the ficus tree and is the structure used to generate food through photosynthesis. The ficus tree is most commonly known as the fig tree. Ficus trees have spread throughout many parts of the world. Many ficus leaves have unique characteristics, such as the poison found on the fiscus benjamina. The ficus leaves have also played a role in art history.
The ficus tree frequently drops its leaves, which leads to gardeners frequently having to rake the leaves. These leaves are dropped so that the tree can survive during the drought season by reducing both the amount of water needed and the amount of water lost through the leaves during transpiration. The leaf drop happens when the plant releases ethylene in reaction to an expected drought. Low-level exposure of mercury through paints can also cause the ficus tree leaves to drop. To prevent this, gardeners must water the ficus tree on a regular schedule. However, some ficus leaves will develop leaf rust, a disease that will cause the leaves to drop.
The ficus leaf is a thin--but tough--leaf that hangs loosely from stalks. The leaves are differ depending on where they have adapted. For example, Australia has ficus leaves that are like sandpaper.
The ficus benjamina has leaves that have poisonous sap, which can cause dermatitis and allergic reactions. Symptoms include itchy eyes, cough, wheezing, skin itching, skin redness and stinging, according to North Carolina State University. However, the reaction usually only lasts a few minutes.
Ficus leaves have been used in medieval art to cover up parts of the human body that were considered obscene. For example, artist Michelangelo's David had a fig leaf placed over his genitals because Queen Victoria was initially shocked by the nudity, according to the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Many pieces of artwork that originally were drawn nude, such as artwork of Adam and Eve, were later altered with fig leaves placed over their genitals. Ficus leaves have also been used in France as an ingredient for perfume. Some ficus leaves have been used as remedies for diabetes, according to Purdue University.
The ficus tree is a small tree that reaches no taller than 30 feet and is indigenous to Western Asian, according to Purdue University. The ficus trees produce figs, which are edible fruit that are sweet, juicy and often dried. Varieties of ficus trees include the celeste, brown turkey, magnolia and the white genoa.