Madame Butterfly’s broadleaved-fig tree is probably as famous as her. This decades-old tree has made it to the papers before. Mr Andrew Tan wrote an article on the tree that was published on Straits Times Life! some time ago.
I have always wanted to visit Rosalind’s garden to take a look at the tree after I reading Andrew’s article as well as heard from members from the local gardening fraternity of how majestic it is. My wish was finally granted yesterday when I was invited to Rosalind’s house after the gardening talk at the library.
I was impressed when I saw the tree. Rosalind’s broad-leaved fig tree (Ficus auriculata) is the main focal point of her garden. It is about as tall as her two-storied property and its dome-shaped canopy provided much welcomed shade over the koi pond below as well as for the front porch. It can potentially grow much larger, from what I have read.
I was told by Rosalind that the tree has helped to shield away much of the glaring sun and she can now sit at the garden table situated at the porch at any time of the day to watch the lively kois swimming in the pond and to enjoy the peaceful greenery of her garden.
Unlike the dense canopies of some large-growing fruit trees, the canopy of this species of fig allows some sunlight to stream through and that enables plants to be grown on ground below the tree. This will therefore give room for ideas to create a beautiful shade garden below the tree rather than having to put up with the sight of a bare patch of soil. In Rosalind’s case, she grows a variety of shade-loving plants which include various ferns and a perfect carpet of flame violets, Episcia.
The common name of this fig arises from its very large ovate leaves that can grow up to 30 cm in length. Its large slightly glossy leaves are of a beautiful jade green colour and are rather rough to touch. The new young leaves of the tree are red to start with and they turn green when they are mature. Do you know that the leaves of this fig tree are dried and infused in hot water to make a medicinal tea?
This tree I saw at Rosalind’s garden has a thick trunk with several branches that extend elegantly upwards. It looked as if the trunk and branches have been deliberately fashioned to look this way; something that could only be seen in bonsai specimens. The branches also hosted a myriad of epiphytes such as a staghorn fern and several hoyas.
The broad-leaved fig produces flowers that appear on spurs that extend from the main trunk and primary branches — a trait known as cauliflory that is characteristic of figs. The figs this tree produces are edible and they are pear-shaped, reaching a size of about 5 cm when ready to be picked and consumed. They are brownish-green when young and take on a red colour when ripe. These can be made into a jam or dried.
This fig species is definitely one to consider to grow in the garden if one desires to grow a tree that is not just only ornamental but produces edible fruits too. It is a tree to grow for those of us who want to be different. It is a tree for those who do not want to fall into the same category of people who grows the usual fruit trees such as mango, rambutan and guava – there are just to many people who has a mango tree grown right in front of their houses. What’s more, this fig tree is relatively pest- and disease-free.
Above is another excellent view of the fig tree in Rosalind’s garden. I was told that Andrew Tan also stood at the same spot to snap a picture of this famous broad-leaved fig tree. The orange glow from the setting sun completed this perfect shot as it lit up the fig tree’s trunk.
Many thanks to Rosalind and Wee Lee for the opportunity to visit them and Cheow Kheng for arranging the trip and making it possible.