Ficus Taxonomy Puzzle Solved

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Ficus Taxonomy Puzzle Solved

Post  bonsaisr on Tue Dec 20, 2011 4:19 pm

Being the worst resident OC anorak in the taxonomy department, I was puzzled by a problem with Ficus retusa and Ficus microcarpa. Many of the top horticultural authorities, such as Jerry Meislik, consider them synonymous. However, when I checked with the taxonomy databases, such as the Plant List and Figweb, they are definitely two separate species.
Experienced growers have considered them synonyms because there is a tremendous overlap in trees labeled as one or the other. Finally, I went to the top and e-mailed Prof. C.C. Berg at the University of Leiden. He is THE world authority on Ficus taxonomy (remember he brought you Ficus salicaria).
This is what he wrote back:
From: "Berg, C.C. (Cornelis)"
Subject: RE: Ficus Taxonomy
Date: December 20, 2011 7:07:56 AM EST
To: "IrisCohen@aol.com" <IrisCohen@aol.com>
Dear Iris, F. retusa L. and F. microcarpa L.f are indeed separate species, but the name F. retusa, not as described by Linnaeus, has been incorrectly applied by numerous authors to material of F. microcarpa. This misunderstanding is still persisting, in particular among horticulturalists. For descriptions of the two species I can refer to Flora Malesiana 17 (2): 667 and 676. In this publication you can also find indications for finding illustrations. Sincerely yours, C. C. Berg

Incidentally, Jerry Meislik reports that he has seen the original Tiger bark fig in Taiwan, and it is definitely a cultivar of Ficus microcarpa. So you can formally label yours Ficus microcarpa 'Kinmen.'

bonsaisr
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Re: Ficus Taxonomy Puzzle Solved

Post  Billy M. Rhodes on Tue Dec 20, 2011 4:42 pm

OK, so what most of us call retusa is really microcarpa. So, what does retusa really look like?

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Ficus Taxonomy Puzzle Solved

Post  bonsaisr on Tue Dec 20, 2011 4:53 pm

Billy M. Rhodes wrote: So, what does retusa really look like?
I am trying to find out how to access Flora Malesiana.
Iris

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Re: Ficus Taxonomy Puzzle Solved

Post  Rob Kempinski on Fri Dec 23, 2011 5:26 pm

bonsaisr wrote:(remember he brought you Ficus salicaria).

He didn't bring us Ficus salicaria, he just tried to rename it. In fact he doesn't even know where it grows naturally.

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Ficus Taxonomy Puzzle Solved

Post  bonsaisr on Fri Dec 23, 2011 9:47 pm


Go here http://www.jstor.org/pss/3218466
Iris


Last edited by bonsaisr on Fri Dec 23, 2011 9:54 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : Remove pejorative remark)

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Re: Ficus Taxonomy Puzzle Solved

Post  Rob Kempinski on Sat Dec 24, 2011 4:15 am

bonsaisr wrote:
Go here http://www.jstor.org/pss/3218466
Iris

There is a scientific study of the plants DNA and certain experiments underway that show the Willow Leaf ficus is a sport of the Ficus pertusa and therefore not deserving of a new name. With the gnome investigation techniques available today I would expect there would be more to naming a plant than looking up a few letters from nurseries.

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Ficus Taxonomy Puzzle Solved

Post  bonsaisr on Sat Dec 24, 2011 3:29 pm

Actually, we are not discussing this species here. I am looking forward to seeing whatever new findings are actually published. Meanwhile, we use the current accepted name.
I am waiting to see if I get any more information over the weekend, then I will post whatever I could find on F. retusa vs microcarpa.
Iris

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ficus Taxonomy Puzzle Solved

Post  bonsaisr on Mon Dec 26, 2011 5:30 pm

Sorry, Billy, we may never know what F. retusa L. really looks like, and I don't think it matters. I looked high and low and wrote to everyone I could think of, from Kew to Bogor, and apparently nobody has a picture of this species. I have come to the conclusion that it is probably not in the trade, and may be practically unknown in cultivation. Just consider it a shoddy knock-off of F. microcarpa.
According to Dustin Mann, if I recall correctly, at one time in the 70's, dealers labeled imported F. microcarpa "Ficus retusa" to distinguish them from American grown specimens. This is probably how the confusion started.
The New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx (NYC) has the complete set of Flora Malesiana, and the librarian was kind enough to scan and e-mail me the pages mentioned by Professor Berg. Here is the comparison I gleaned about the two species.
F. retusa is a tree up to 10 m (33 feet) tall, F. microcarpa a shrub or tree up to 30 meters.
Both are hemi-epiphytes, but microcarpa may also be terrestrial (germinating on the ground). Hemi-epiphyte is the polite term for a strangler fig. For those who tuned in late, a strangler is a species whose seeds are spread by fruit eating birds and germinate in the treetops. The seedling grows as an epiphyte temporarily, while the roots climb down the host tree-trunk until they penetrate the ground. Then the fig grows all around the host tree, which usually suffocates & dies. Many fig species on all continents have this delightful habit, so it is not useful for identification.
On F. retusa, the branches dry brown to yellowish. On microcarpa they dry brown (of course on our cultivated varieties, they may be gray or some other color).
On retusa, leafy twigs are 3-5 mm (up to 1/4") thick. They are slightly powdery with dark brown appressed hairs. On microcarpa, leafy twigs are 2-3 mm (about 1/8") thick. They are smooth or slightly powdery. No telling how this would work in potted specimens.
On F. retusa, the leaf is subobovate (slightly narrower at the base) to oblong, leathery, rounded. The surface is smooth or with minute dark brown appressed hairs. On microcarpa, the leaves are oblong, round, or oval, leathery, smooth, and usually with a little blunt point.
All figs are notable for their prominent stipules (bud covers). Both species have papery stipules; the one on retusa is slightly powdery. The one on microcarpa curls up when dry.
F. retusa is found in Java and Borneo, in low altitude forests.
F. microcarpa has a very wide distribution, Sri Lanka, India, China, Japan & the Ryukyus, Thailand to Australia, Borneo, New Guinea, Indonesia, Philippines, and many South Pacific islands. The species is quite variable, with leaf shape & size different in various parts of its range.
What really startled me was a picture of Ficus microcarpa "in its typical habitat of tidal freshwater swamp forest..." So our friendly neighborhood Chinese banyan is a mangrove wannabe? What does this tell us about culture? Well, the epicenter of F. microcarpa bonsai is Taiwan, which has a tropical to subtropical climate with heavy rainfall. Elsewhere, we might want to look at a very well drained soil with frequent watering in the summer, and watch for overfertilizing. It may not mean anything in how we grow in the North.
Well, you wanted a picture. Just for the New Year, Google on Welwitschia mirabilis. This is a tree that God made at 3:00 PM on the First Sabbath, when He got bored with resting & started tinkering with leftover spare parts. Intelligent Design? I dunno, but they live for 2000 years. Anyway, it was so much fun that He went on and threw together the duckbill platypus.
Happy New Year,
Iris


Last edited by bonsaisr on Tue Dec 27, 2011 3:04 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : Additional information)

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Re: Ficus Taxonomy Puzzle Solved

Post  JimLewis on Mon Dec 26, 2011 8:08 pm

Thank you, Iris. "twas both entertaining and informative. I think I'll stick with my two little willow-leaf figs -- whose taxonomy, I gather, also is a bit mixed up.

Happy New Year to you also.

_________________
Jim Lewis - lewisjk@windstream.net - Western NC - People, when Columbus discovered this country, it was plumb full of nuts and berries. And I'm right here to tell you the berries are just about all gone. Uncle Dave Macon, old-time country musician

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ficus Taxonomy Puzzle Solved

Post  bonsaisr on Fri Feb 03, 2012 2:27 am

JimLewis wrote:I'll stick with my two little willow-leaf figs -- whose taxonomy, I gather, also is a bit mixed up.
Not mixed up at all. See recent thread on the subject. Willow leaf fig is Ficus salicaria. It has no other accepted name. I have proposed adding the cultivar name 'Willow Leaf,' since the common variety is only reproduced vegetatively, so except for the cultivar 'Eighty-Nine,' they are all the same clone.

Billy wanted a picture. study
Apparently a photograph of the true Ficus retusa does not exist on this planet, not even at FigWeb. Professor Berg very kindly sent me a pair of old botanical drawings of F. microcarpa and F. retusa. As you can see (perhaps), the names have been changed around. Unfortunately, these are scans of scans, so that is the best we can do. You can see the difference in leaf shape & the size of the tree.



This is Ficus retusa.



This is Ficus microcarpa.
Iris

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Re: Ficus Taxonomy Puzzle Solved

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