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LORIDA 6bEBRATrInV/ EYE 1tNl0 EVE
MSTITUTE OF FOOD A iND AGRICULTURAL SCIENCES
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA, GAINESVILLE
GROWING FIGS IN FLORIDA
A. H. Krezdorn
Chairman, Department of Fruit Crops
The edible fig is not as widely grown in Florida
in some southern states. However, it is a popu
fruit and some figs are grown for local sales.
The edible fig, Ficus carica, is a member of 1
large Moraceae family that includes many of 1
beautiful glossy-leaved trees grown in central a
southern Florida and throughout the tropics.
also includes the common mulberry and Osa
Specialized cells in the plant produce a latex tl
contains ficin, a protein decomposing enzyme simi
to that produced by papayas. When the latex con
in contact with the skin, the ficin causes a dermati
or skin irritation that makes the use of gloves
visable when working with or harvesting figs.
Figs seldom attain tree form in Florida becat
they are occasionally frozen to the ground, causi
them to sucker from the base and form a bush. I
lateral spread of roots is extensive and, in certs
soils, the roots are quite deep. A profusion of fibre
roots occurs close to the soil surface, which mal
deep cultivation undesirable. Shoot growth is vigi
ous and the wood soft. Terminal growth may cc
tinue into early winter and fail to mature. Su
growth is very susceptible to cold damage. T
large, distinctive leaves have a pubescence that
very irritating to the skin.
The fruit is produced primarily in leaf axils
new growth. Fruit of some species is also produce
on leafless wood formed the previous season. T
fruit is unique, being derived from a hollow rece
tacle with flowers borne on the inner walls. At t
apex of the fruit, there is an opening known as t
eye. Insects and water enter through this eye unl
it is tightly closed.
Based on flowering and fruiting characteristic,
figs can be placed into 4 categories-caprifig, Sm5
na, common, and San Pedro. Caprifigs are inedil
and produce only staminate (male) flowers. The
are useful only for the pollen produced. Smyn
types bear only pistillate (female) flowers and r
quire pollen from caprifig to develop and mature
periods. Shallow cultivation to eliminate weeds and
weekly irrigation in periods of drought result in
Fertilizers. Little is known about the specific fer-
tilizer needs of figs. Observation indicates that they
respond to fertilizer application much as other fruit
trees in Florida. The heavy Florida rainfall and ex-
tended growth period of figs suggests the applica-
tion of small amounts of mixed fertilizers about once
a month during the growing season.
Birds. The primary pest of figs in Florida is birds.
They are especially fond of the darker colored fruits.
To minimize the problem, ripe figs should be har-
vested early each morning.
Insects. The primary insect problem is the dried
fruit beetle or sour bug that carries souring orga-
nisms through the eye into the fruit cavity. Planting
varieties with closed eyes, and removing all fruit as
soon as it is ripe are the only methods of control.
Figs with open eyes should be picked just prior to
maturity and preserved. Beetles sometimes attack
weakened limbs. Damaged portions should be re-
moved and tree vigor restored through proper care.
Diseases. Fig rust stands out as an important foli-
ar disease. The leaves take on a rusty brown appear-
ance, become distorted and fall. Premature ripen-
ing and reduced tolerance to cold result. This dis-
ease can be controlled with a 5-5-50 Bordeaux (cop-
per sulfate, lime and water) spray applied every 2 to
3 weeks from June through August. It is important
to spray the undersides of the young leaves for this
is where infection takes place.
Anthracnose sometimes causes sunken black spots
on the fruit but is not usually serious. Various other
fungus diseases-such as web blight, thread blight
and pink blight-may damage the twigs where figs
are crowded with other plants, or in excessively wet
areas. The problem is generally solved by removing
adjacent shrubbery for better air movement.
Nematodes. Nematodes are minute worms that
attack the roots. They become so severe in the deep
sands of central Florida that figs cannot be success-
fully grown without special measures. Where clay
subsoils are present, the damage is greatly lessened.
Grown next to buildings, the roote penetrate the
soil under the building where nematodes are fewer
and conditions for root growth better. Heavy or-
ganic mulches also lessen nematode damage. A pre-
planting treatment with one of the nematicides is
helpful, and new nematicides that can be applied 1
growing plants are available.
The edible fig can be grafted onto several inedib:
species of tropical types that are nematode resistan
These include Ficus racemosa, F. cacculifolia an
F. gnaphalacarpa-F. racemosa has long been calle
F. glomerata in Florida and is still sold under thi
name. Trees on these rootstocks can not be success
fully used in areas colder than the citrus region <
central Florida because of their sensitivity to cold.
Homeowners frequently want to propagate the
own trees. This is easily done by cutting dormai
wood into 6 to 12-inch lengths. Use wood up 1
3/4-inch in diameter and avoid weak, slender growth
Make the basal cut directly below a node or join
In late winter, the cuttings may be planted in ar
well-drained soil. About 1" of the cutting is le
above the soil level. Care should be taken to kef
the soil only moderately moist-not wet. LeaJ
shoots also root well under intermittent mist and
marcotts or air layers.
Figs can also be propagated on rootstocks usir
the chip bud, patch bud, side graft or inlay gral
The chip bud and side-graft are preferred when tl
diameter of the wood is 1/2 inch or less, the pate
bud for stocks from 1/2 to 11/2 inches and the ink
graft for larger stocks. The heavy flow of latex fro:
the cuts made in the stock does not hinder union
Single copies free to residents of Florida. Bulk rates
available upon request. Please submit details on
request to Chairman, Editorial Department, Institute
of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of
Florida, Gainesville, Florida 32611.
This public document was promulgated at an
annual cost of $252.00, or 2.52 cents per
copy to inform the public about growing figs
COOPERATIVE EXTENSION WORK IN AGRICULTURE AND HOME ECONOMICS
(Alo of May 8 md June 30,1914)
Cooperative Extension Service, IFAS, Univenity of Florida
and United States Deprtment of Agriculture, Cooperating
Joe N. Busby, Deoa
Common types, the only kind recommended for
'lorida, produce only pistillate flowers but they are
arthenocarpic (do not require pollination to devel-
p and mature fruit). San Pedro types bear 2 crops
f figs, as do some varieties of the other types, and
produce only pistillate flowers. Figs of the first crop,
orne of the leafless wood, do not require pollination.
'igs of the main crop, borne on new wood, will not
produce mature fruit without pollination.
Florida gardeners sometimes obtain figs of the
myrna or San Pedro types from California. Since
'lorida has neither caprifigs nor the special fig wasp
iat is needed to transfer the pollen from the capri-
g to the Smyrna and San Pedro types, fruit of these
pes fall before ripening. Even varieties of the
common type sometimes shed fruit prior to matur-
;y. This may be brought on by excessive heat or
brought. Heavy infestations of nematodes may also
ause premature fruit drop. When some varieties of
gs are frozen to the ground, they do not produce
*uit on the extremely vigorous new shoots that
rise following the damage.
From the standpoint of adaptability, there are sev-
ral desirable characteristics but no variety has them
11. A closed eye prevents entrance of the dried fruit
eetle and water. A long peduncle or fruit stem al-
>ws the fruit to droop and prevents the entrance of
moisture through the eye. Green skin color at ma-
irity results in less bird damage to the fruit. Some
varieties fruit on the vigorous wood produced fol-
)wing severe freeze damage.
When purchasing fig trees, one is occasionally mis-
*d because some varieties are sold under several
ames, and in some cases the same name has been
given to more than one variety. In describing vari-
ties adapted to Florida, the name commonly used in
lis region is given, and synonyms are included in
'Celeste' (Celestial, Blue Celeste, Little Brown,
ugar). This is the European variety, Malta, and the
lost widely grown fig in the South. The fruit is
nail, purplish-bronze to light brown in color, and
ie eye is tightly closed. The fruit droops at matur-
y and ripens from mid-July to mid-August. 'Ce-
*ste' does not bear fruit the season following severe
'Brown Turkey' (Everbearing, Harrison, Ramsey,
Lee's Perpetual, Eastern Brown Turkey, Bruns-
wick). This variety rivals 'Celeste' in popularity.
The fruit has a medium open eye, is of moderate size,
has bronze colored skin and ripens from late July
until late fall if growth conditions are satisfactory.
The extended fruiting period has resulted in the
names Lee's Perpetual and Everbearing. It will
fruit following severe freeze damage.
'Green Ischia' (Ischia Green, White Ischia, Ischia
Verte). This variety is not widely grown but its
green skin color and closed eye are desirable char-
acteristics that make it worthy of wider trial. The
fruit does not ripen until late July or early August
and its fruiting season is short. It does not fruit the
season following a severe freeze.
'San Piero' (Thomson, California Brown Turkey).
This variety has no common name in Florida. Flor-
ida gardeners sometimes purchase Brown Turkey
from California nurseries and get San Piero by mis-
take. The fruit is very large with an open eye and
a purplish-black to purplish-bronze skin color. The
fruit does not droop at maturity and sours and splits
'Magnolia' (Brunswick, Madonna). This is the
commercial canning fig of Texas and is fairly com-
mon throughout the South but uncommon in Florida.
The eye is open, the skin is bronze colored and the
peduncle is short. The fairly large fruit has a lop-
sided appearance. Fruit matures from mid-July to
late August. 'Magnolia' bears fruit following severe
freeze damage. Its value as a fresh fruit is lessened
by tendency to split and sour.
Planting. Bare rooted figs can be set out anytime
during the dormant season. Late winter is prefer-
able as this reduces the possibility of freeze damage.
Container-grown plants should be set out in early
spring, after the danger of frost is over.
Pruning. Little pruning is needed other than to
maintain the desired bush size. If the plant is strag-
gly, it may be cut back to cause branching. Only
3 to 5 trunks or leaders should be kept and the
sucker growth cut out annually. Following freeze
damage, damaged portions should be cut out. If the
apparently undamaged growth puts out extremely
weak growth, the tree should be cut back to short
stumps and a new bush developed.
Moisture Supply. Figs require large quantities of
water during the fruiting season but will not tolerate
excessively wet soils or poor drainage for protracted