It is widely believed that figs were actually the fruit in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve, not apples. The early Olympic athletes used figs as a training food. Figs were also presented as laurels to the winners, becoming the first Olympic ‘medal.’ Chances are that you may be familiar with the common fig or ‘anjeer’ that has found its way from ancient art, to the early Olympics, to gourmet cuisine, and now also to our palettes.
Fig trees do not flower
It is one of the 750 known species of ficus, and the Machan, one of the finest resorts in Lonavala is home to several of them. If you have seen a fig tree before, you must have noticed that unlike other fruit trees, fig trees do not flower. What is this mystery of the missing flower? This secret is hidden inside the garden that figs themselves make, and the special relationship that they have with fig wasps.
The relationship between figs and fig wasps
Over 18 millions years ago, fig trees formed an elegant partnership with some tiny, stingless wasps. Fig trees produce a secret garden of tiny flowers, enclosed within a thick wall- this arrangement looks like a fruit. You may say that the flowers are inside the fruit. Each fig species depends on a particular type of wasp to pollinate its flowers. The female wasp enters the fruit through a small opening below it and deposits her eggs in a cavity. In this process, she may lose some parts of her wings and antennae. Along with the eggs, she also deposits the pollen collected from the original host fig. This allows the female flowers inside the fruit to pollinate and mature. After this, the female wasps die.
The female is born pregnant
After the fig develops, wasp eggs develop into larvae. After the pupal stage, the mature male’s first act is to mate with a female- even before she hatches. As such, the female will emerge pregnant. The male digs a tunnel through the fruit for the female to come out of it. The wingless male wasps cannot survive outside the fig for much longer. The females come out of the tunnel, picking up pollen on their way. They then fly to another tree of the same species for the cycle to continue. The pollinator females are fragile and only live for a day or two. However, they can travel upto 160 kilometers to find figs for pollination.
The now ripened and wasp-free figs emit a fruity odor in the air that attracts squirrels, maynas, barbets, fruit bats, parakeets, macaws, and even the nocturnal loris and civets. Thus, figs are a keystone species as they sustain a variety of wildlife creatures. Scientists are now using figs for this power to kickstart rainforest regeneration in areas that have been locked.
The Machan is dedicated towards the preservation of all the species in its ecosystem. If you think these creatures are interesting, you should explore our naturalist series and find out interesting facts about more commonly seen insects like termites and spiders to name a few. Our nature paradise near Mumbai is open for you to take a trail and explore every species from frogs and squirrels to thrushes and monkeys.