Strangler fig

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Strangler fig is the common name for a number of tropical and subtropical plant species, including some banyans and unrelated vines, including among many other species:

These all share a common "strangling" growth habit that is found in many tropical forest species, particularly of the genus Ficus.[1] This growth habit is an adaptation for growing in dark forests where the competition for light is intense. These plants begin life as hemiepiphytes, when their seeds, often bird-dispersed, germinate in crevices atop other trees. These seedlings grow their roots downward and envelop the host tree while also growing upward to reach into the sunlight zone above the canopy.[2][3]

An original support tree can sometimes die, so that the strangler fig becomes a "columnar tree" with a hollow central core.[4] However, it is also believed that the strangler fig can help the support tree survive storms.[5]


A strangler fig sapling starts to grow on a tree, roots can be seen 
Old strangler fig in the final stage, Costa-Rica, Pacific 
A strangler fig. The supporting tree, now dead can also be seen. Photo from Kannavam forest 
A columnar tree formed by a strangler fig after the central tree has died. The tree is hollow as seen in this photograph from below. 


  1. ^ Zhekun, Zhou & Michael G. Gilbert (2003) Flora of China (Moraceae) 5: 21-73.
  2. ^ Serventy, V. 1984. Australian Native Plants. Victoria: Reed Books.
  3. ^ Light in the rainforest 1992 Tropical topics. Vol 1 No. 5,
  4. ^ Margaret Lowman; H. Bruce Rinker (2004). Forest Canopies. Academic Press. pp. 180–. ISBN 978-0-12-457553-0. 
  5. ^ Richard, Leora.; Halkin, Sylvia (June 2017). "Strangler figs may support their host trees during severe storms". Symbiosis. 72: 153–157. Bibcode:1985QuRes..23...87O. doi:10.1007/s13199-017-0484-5. 

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