Ficus microcarpa

Laurel fig

Nonnative to FloridaFISC Category 1 Invasive
Species Overview

Native to: India, Malaysia

Laurel fig was introduced into Florida in the early 1900s as an ornamental tree. It has since escaped cultivation due to the accidental introduction of species-specific pollinating wasps.

Description
  • Family: Moraceae
  • Habit: evergreen tree to 15 m (50 ft) or more in height, with a rounded dense crown; smooth gray bark, milky sap, and long, thin, dangling aerial roots
  • Leaves: alternate, simple, leathery, deep glossy green; oval-elliptic to diamond-shaped, to 13 cm (5 in) long, with short pointed, ridged tips
  • Flowers: tiny, unisexual, numerous, hidden within the “fig”; a fleshy, specialized receptacle that develops into a multiple fruit (syconium)
  • Fruit: green turning to yellow or dark red when ripe; sessile, in pairs at leaf axils; small, to 1 cm (0.5 in) in diameter
  • Distribution in Florida: central and south

 

 

Impacts

Laurel fig invades the interior and edges of hammocks and is often found growing as epiphytes (on trees) or epiliths (on rocks or stone structures). It produces a large number of viable seeds which are ingested and spread by birds and animals. Because laurel fig is adapted to a wide range of conditions, it outcompetes native flora by strangling its host plant with its aerial roots during its early life as an epiphyte. As a mature tree, its dense canopy and numerous, hanging aerial roots shade out competitors.

The UF/IFAS Assessment lists laurel fig as a species of caution for central and south Florida. FLEPPC lists it as a Category l invasive species due to its ability to invade and displace native plant communities.

Management Plan


Management Options

Regular monitoring and removal of plants can prevent the spread and establishment of laurel fig. Programs to educate homeowners on proper plant identification will also reduce the spread of this species. Native alternatives to laurel fig for use in home landscaping or natural areas include Strangler fig (Ficus aurea), Mastic (Sideroxylon foetidissimum) or Live oak (Quercus virginiana).

Cultural/Physical

Remove any seed pods if possible and pull seedlings. Hand-pulling and removal of entire plants, particularly the roots, is practical for small infestations.

Mechanical

Remove existing mature trees if possible. 

Biological

There are no known biological control agents for Laurel fig.

Chemical
  • Basal bark: 10% Garlon 4
    • Exercise care when treating epiphytic figs to ensure the herbicide does not come in contact with the host tree. All Ficus species are very sensitive to Garlon 4. Extreme care must be taken when treating any vegetation near the native strangler fig and native shortleaf fig.

 

Additional Resources