Willow Leaf Ficus Nomenclature

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Willow Leaf Ficus Nomenclature

Post  bonsaisr on Thu Dec 29, 2011 3:22 am

Most of you know by now that the current accepted botanical name for willow leaf fig is Ficus salicaria.
For those who are unfamiliar with its history, the original tree arrived in Florida with a big shipment about 60 years ago. By the time everyone realized this was a new unknown species, nobody could remember where it came from. Florida landscapers seized on it because it is a well-behaved moderate size shrub, unlike the well-known Ficus benjamina, elastica, and microcarpa, which grow into full size trees, ripping up sidewalks & clogging drains. It soon entered the bonsai trade and eventually spread far and wide.
In an effort to call it something, growers tacked on the names of similar species, such as Ficus neriifolia and salicifolia. 50 years later, it came to the attention of Prof. C.C. Berg, the Chief Rabbi and Pope of Ficus taxonomy. In 2004, he published the name of the new species as Ficus salicaria, which means willow-like.
One of the problems with this species is that it has never been found in the wild. In his article in the scientific journal Brittonia, (go here http://www.jstor.org/pss/3218466) Berg explains that due to its similarity to other species from the Guianas, he is pretty sure F. salicaria comes from Guyana. However, the species has the hallmarks of a rheophyte, a tree that grows only with its feet in running water. Rheophytes are hard to find and rarely collected, a possible explanation of why it is unknown in the wild.
Naming a species only from cultivated material is far from unknown. In the early days of orchid growing it happened frequently. Cupressus sempervirens and Juniperus procumbens 'Nana' were both published from cultivated plants.
There is a contention that F. salicaria is not a new species, but a sport of Ficus pertusa, another species from South America. We shall see what develops when these findings are published.
There is one more step remaining in the nomenclature of our species. When Ficus salicaria sprang from the packing case like Venus from the sea-foam, she neglected to bring along her fig wasp. Every species of fig has its own species of tiny wasp, which is essential for pollination. Ficus salicaria can only be reproduced vegetatively. Hence every single specimen from Florida to Indonesia is ONE CLONE. The only exception is the sport 'Eighty-Nine,' which emerged after a freeze.
Therefore, it is my proposal that this population of F. salicaria be considered a cultivar. The full name would be Ficus salicaria 'Willow Leaf.' If it is ultimately found to be a different species, it would be transfered but the cultivar name would be unchanged.
Now comes the difficulty. Each family or genus of the higher plants, if it has any recognized cultivars, has an official registration authority. For orchids and several other major groups, it is the Royal Horticultural Society. For dozens of little orphan genera, it is the American Association of Public Gardens. I wrote to them, & was astonished to find THERE IS NO REGISTRATION AUTHORITY FOR FICUS CULTIVARS. The only way a new Ficus cultivar becomes known is when it is introduced & advertised by a commercial nursery. If we decide to call this fig Ficus salicaria 'Willow Leaf,' it can only be through consensus, since it can't be registered. Please note, botanical names are in italics, cultivar names are in roman type and enclosed in single quotes.
What do you think?
Iris

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Re: Willow Leaf Ficus Nomenclature

Post  drgonzo on Thu Dec 29, 2011 3:39 am

Iris

Thank you for the information, I think thats the first time I've read the entire story of Salicaria with such detail in one place.
-Jay

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Re: Willow Leaf Ficus Nomenclature

Post  Billy M. Rhodes on Thu Dec 29, 2011 7:06 am

"it can only be through consensus"

Among Bonsai Growers?

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Re: Willow Leaf Ficus Nomenclature

Post  Russell Coker on Thu Dec 29, 2011 4:01 pm


Wonderful detective work Iris!!!!!

Now would it be possile for someone to show us the difference between F. salicaria and F. salicaria 'Willow Leaf'/'Eighty-nine'??? And which one is what we see on this forum?

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Re: Willow Leaf Ficus Nomenclature

Post  Billy M. Rhodes on Thu Dec 29, 2011 4:58 pm

I think we see some of both. I have both, all the the greenhouse now.

I think a genetic test on the "standard" and on "'89" would be interesting.

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Re: Willow Leaf Ficus Nomenclature

Post  Billy M. Rhodes on Thu Dec 29, 2011 5:00 pm

I also think many people who have them don't know which they have. In cultivation (bonsai or training pot) culture will have a lot to do with leaf size.
With proper technique I can get "89 leaves down fairly small.

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Willow Leaf Ficus Nomenclature

Post  bonsaisr on Thu Dec 29, 2011 5:27 pm

Billy M. Rhodes wrote:"it can only be through consensus"

Among Bonsai Growers?
Among those who grow and propagate the species.

Billy M. Rhodes wrote:I also think many people who have them don't know which they have. In cultivation (bonsai or training pot) culture will have a lot to do with leaf size.
With proper technique I can get "89 leaves down fairly small.
From descriptions I have read, it is possible that 'Eighty-Nine' is a tetraploid (more chromosomes). That is easy enough to test for.
Iris

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Re: Willow Leaf Ficus Nomenclature

Post  bonsaisr on Thu Dec 29, 2011 10:02 pm

Russell Coker wrote:
Wonderful detective work Iris!!!!!

Now would it be possile for someone to show us the difference between F. salicaria and F. salicaria 'Willow Leaf'/'Eighty-nine'??? And which one is what we see on this forum?
What is usually labeled Ficus salicaria or willow leaf fig is what I am proposing to call Ficus salicaria 'Willow Leaf.' I can't tell you personally how it differs from 'Eighty-Nine,' since I have never seen the latter. I gather 'Eighty-Nine' is a faster and coarser grower.
Iris

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Re: Willow Leaf Ficus Nomenclature

Post  JIM SMITH on Thu Dec 29, 2011 10:40 pm

Earlier this year Enrique Castino who works for the Plant Research Center in Mexico visited my nursery, He has a Doctorate in Biochemestry and is interested in bonsai horticulture. I showed him the Ficus I call Ficus Salicifolia 89, He informed me that this tree is native to Mexico and is Ficus salicara. Probably the name Ficus salicara Willow Leaf is appropriate.

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Re: Willow Leaf Ficus Nomenclature

Post  bonsaisr on Fri Dec 30, 2011 2:22 am

JIM SMITH wrote:He informed me that this tree is native to Mexico and is Ficus salicaria. Probably the name Ficus salicaria 'Willow Leaf' is appropriate.
He got the name right, but I would like some proof that it is native to Mexico. It may have been planted there. It wouldn't be naturalized unless its wasp is present.
Iris

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Re: Willow Leaf Ficus Nomenclature

Post  Billy M. Rhodes on Fri Dec 30, 2011 3:49 pm

I tried a photo today of the leaves from 'Willow Leaf' and from 'Willow Leaf 89'
The scale is in inches and the black line is five inches long.
The 'Willow Leaf' is at the top and 'Willow Leaf 89" is below.

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Willow Leaf Ficus Nomenclature

Post  bonsaisr on Fri Dec 30, 2011 4:18 pm

About what I expected. Take a strong magnifying glass and look at the backs of the leaves. Can you see the stomata? They are little dots where the leaves breathe & transpire water vapor. If the stomata are larger and more prominent on 'Eighty-Nine,' and possibly farther apart, that is a good indication this cultivar is a tetraploid, which I suspect. It is very common for plants to mutate to a tetraploid, or other variation from normal chromosome count, following a trauma. It is a part of evolution, and often leads to the formation of new species.
Growers of economically important crops sometimes try to manipulate this process by treating the seeds with X-rays or strong chemicals, like colchicine.
Iris

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Re: Willow Leaf Ficus Nomenclature

Post  Billy M. Rhodes on Fri Dec 30, 2011 4:30 pm

I don't have fruit to show but the 89 does have larger fruit. Both are typical figs but only about the size of a large English Pea. The wasp would have to be very small.

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Willow Leaf Ficus Nomenclature

Post  bonsaisr on Sat Dec 31, 2011 1:45 am

Billy M. Rhodes wrote:Both are typical figs but only about the size of a large English Pea. The wasp would have to be very small.
Fig wasps are very tiny. Some parasitic wasps with other jobs are microscopic. Go to FigWeb.org for a complete discussion of figs & their wasps.
However, some wasps are not very bright. There are orchids in Australia that are pollinated by certain wasps. The orchid flower looks and actually smells like a female wasp. The male wasps copulate (really) with the orchid flowers, & pollinate them in the process. They never learn. The orchids are such a good imitation that the male wasps keep coming back to them time after time.
Iris

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Re: Willow Leaf Ficus Nomenclature

Post  drgonzo on Sat Dec 31, 2011 1:56 am

Thank you for the photo Billy, the side by side is eye opening, I much prefer the slimmer leaf of Salicaria "willow leaf"
-Jay

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Re: Willow Leaf Ficus Nomenclature

Post  reg-i on Sat Dec 31, 2011 3:22 am

would they still put out the fig berrys without the wasp cause mine fruited this year

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Re: Willow Leaf Ficus Nomenclature

Post  drgonzo on Sat Dec 31, 2011 4:10 am

reg-i wrote:would they still put out the fig berrys without the wasp cause mine fruited this year


Absolutely
If they didn't my Ficus carica wouldn't be nearly as delicious as it is!
-Jay

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Re: Willow Leaf Ficus Nomenclature

Post  Billy M. Rhodes on Sat Dec 31, 2011 9:42 am

bonsaisr wrote:
Billy M. Rhodes wrote:Both are typical figs but only about the size of a large English Pea. The wasp would have to be very small.
Fig wasps are very tiny. Some parasitic wasps with other jobs are microscopic. Go to FigWeb.org for a complete discussion of figs & their wasps.
However, some wasps are not very bright. There are orchids in Australia that are pollinated by certain wasps. The orchid flower looks and actually smells like a female wasp. The male wasps copulate (really) with the orchid flowers, & pollinate them in the process. They never learn. The orchids are such a good imitation that the male wasps keep coming back to them time after time.
Iris

Guys are like that!

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Re: Willow Leaf Ficus Nomenclature

Post  Billy M. Rhodes on Sat Dec 31, 2011 9:50 am

drgonzo wrote:
reg-i wrote:would they still put out the fig berrys without the wasp cause mine fruited this year


Absolutely
If they didn't my Ficus carica wouldn't be nearly as delicious as it is!
-Jay

The "fig berry" as you call it is really a group of flowers. Figs are interesting in that the flowers are inside the "fig berry." To actually be pollinated a wasp must fly inside and pollinate the flowers. Once pollinated the opening closes to keep out more wasps and the fruit then ripens on the tree. Our bonsai figs, since they are collected from all over the world and we usually don't have the correct wasp will never have fruit.

Some edible figs such as Jay's Ficus carica have been breed to set fruit and ripen without the wasp, they are "self fertile." But, Ficus carica has been cultivated for fruit for thousands of years.

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Willow Leaf Ficus Nomenclature

Post  bonsaisr on Fri Jan 06, 2012 2:20 am

On another thread, it was asserted that some botanists studying Ficus salicaria have postulated that it is a sport or variety of F. pertusa, another South American fig. I asked Professor Berg if he had any comment on it. This is what he wrote back,
<<Dear Iris, These two species share a sunken ostiole*, also found in Ficus americana subsp. subapiculata. There is a clear morphological link between F. salicaria, and F. schumacheri and F. pallida, less clearly so between F. salicaria and F. pertusa. CCB>>

If and when these people publish their findings, we will see what happens. Meanwhile, Ficus salicaria is the accepted name.
Iris


*The ostiole is the tiny hole in the unripe fig through which the female wasp enters to pollinate the flowers.
http://www.figweb.org/Interaction/How_do_fig_wasps_pollinate/index.htm


Last edited by bonsaisr on Fri Jan 06, 2012 2:30 am; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : Correct spelling)

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Willow Leaf Ficus Nomenclature

Post  bonsaisr on Sat Jan 07, 2012 4:32 pm

In Prof. Berg's original article in Brittonia, he classified F. salicaria as a rheophyte. This is offered as the explanation of why it hasn't been found in the wild. It was a new term for me. Here is the definition.
<<Rheophytes are aquatic plants that live in fast moving water currents in an environment where few other organisms can survive. They tend to be found in currents that move at rates of 1 to 2 meters (3 to 6 feet) per second and that are up to 3 to 6 feet deep. The amount of force such fast moving currents produce and the damaging debris brought along with it makes the environment so inhospitable. Rheophytes are able to live in such environments because their leaves are streamlined so as put up little resistance to the flow of water. The leaves tend to be quite narrow and flexible as well. In order to prevent the plants from being uprooted, Rheophytes have extremely strong wide spreading root systems.>>

That sounds like our friend the willow leaf fig. It must be extremely adaptable, since it is grown all over the world in pots and on dry land. However, as with our swamp-dwelling Ficus microcarpa, this may be an indication that it likes a free-draining soil, plenty of water, and not too much fertilizer.
Iris

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Re: Willow Leaf Ficus Nomenclature

Post  Billy M. Rhodes on Sat Jan 07, 2012 6:11 pm

bonsaisr wrote:In Prof. Berg's original article in Brittonia, he classified F. salicaria as a rheophyte.

I don't think I agree with this.

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Willow Leaf Ficus Nomenclature

Post  bonsaisr on Sat Jan 07, 2012 9:46 pm

Billy M. Rhodes wrote:
I don't think I agree with this.
Based on what? The evidence is that F. salicaria is not an obligate rheophyte. That is, it does not require running water in order to survive. Nobody has seen the species growing in the wild, so we don't know whether it grows in running water in Guyana, given any choice. That would make it a facultative rheophyte. If someone conducts an experiment to see whether F. salicaria will grow in running water at all, that would tell us something. The strong root system is inconclusive, as most tropical figs have strong, spreading root systems. The only significant hallmark of a rheophyte (that I know of) in F. salicaria is that the leaves are much narrower and thinner than its relatives. Since this was apparently an educated guess based on circumstantial evidence, those of us who are not taxonomists can let it go at that, and proceed with what we do know about the species.
Iris

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Re: Willow Leaf Ficus Nomenclature

Post  Russell Coker on Sun Jan 08, 2012 12:35 am

Billy M. Rhodes wrote:
bonsaisr wrote:In Prof. Berg's original article in Brittonia, he classified F. salicaria as a rheophyte.

I don't think I agree with this.

I'm having a really hard time connecting those dots too. A tenacious root system and narrow leaves seems like a GIANT leap to growing in rushing water to me - but what do I know??? I'm going to have to see some hard evidence before I buy that one.

Seems to me that tropical Central and South America is a pretty damn vast area, so the fact that it hasn't been located in the wild doesn't really bother me. Here in the South, Franklinia was collected and later NEVER found in the wild again. Maybe this particular ficus had an extremely limited range that has been replaced by a sugar cane field or Sandels Beach Resort or Club Med....

Btw, thanks for the pictures of the 2 varieties.

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Willow Leaf Ficus Nomenclature

Post  bonsaisr on Wed Jan 11, 2012 2:06 am

I questioned Prof. Berg about the theory that F. salicaria is a rheophyte back home. He explained the assumption is due to its shrubby rather than treelike habit, and the shape of the leaves. You'll notice that F. salicaria leaves are much thinner and narrower than any of the other tropical figs. This is a known hallmark of rheophytes. Notice how the species resembles the osier willows that grow on the banks of rivers, where they are sometimes flooded at high water. Willow leaf indeed.
There are many plants that are found in unique situations in the wild, but adapt happily to life in a pot, like orchids & other epiphytes. As I said, until the tree is found in the wild, it is just an educated guess & we can go right on growing it in pots.
Iris

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