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Ficus platypoda, commonly known as the desert fig or rock fig, is a fig that is endemic to central and northern Australia. It is a lithophytic plant that grows on rocky outcrops, reaching 10 m in height.

Ficus platypoda
Ficus platypoda in rocks.jpg
Scientific classification
F. platypoda
Binomial name
Ficus platypoda
(Miq.) A. Cunn. ex Miq.

Urostigma platypodum Miq.
Ficus leucotricha (Miq.) Miq.


Dutch botanist Friedrich Anton Wilhelm Miquel described the desert fig in 1847 as Urostigma platypodum,[1] from material collected on both the east and west coast of Australia. The material collected by Allan Cunningham from York Sound in Western Australia became the type material. E.J.H. Corner synonymised F. platypoda with Ficus leucotricha, which was described by Miquel in 1861, however as the former name is older, it has become the accepted name instead.[2]

The various populations and subspecies of Ficus platypoda were examined genetically in 2001 and found to contain a number of distinct species. Hence Ficus brachypoda, Ficus atricha and Ficus cerasicarpa were described as separate species.[2]

With over 750 species, Ficus is one of the largest angiosperm genera.[3] Based on morphology, English botanist E. J. H. Corner divided the genus into four subgenera,[4] which was later expanded to six.[5] In this classification, Ficus platypoda was placed in subseries Malvanthereae, series Malvanthereae, section Malvanthera of the subgenus Urostigma.[6] In his reclassification of the Australian Malvanthera, Australian botanist Dale J. Dixon altered the delimitations of the series within the section, but left this species in the series Malvanthereae.[4]

In a study published in 2008, Nina Rønsted and colleagues analysed the DNA sequences from the nuclear ribosomal internal and external transcribed spacers (ITS and ETS), and the glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase (G3pdh) region, in the first molecular analysis of the section Malvanthera. They found F. platypoda to be most closely related to the ancestor of two other arid Northern Territory species (F. subpuberula and F. lilliputiana) and classified it in a new series Obliquae in the subsection Platypodeae. The three species diverged from the ancestor of the transitional rainforest species F. obliqua and radiated into drier regions.[6]


F. platypoda ripening fruit

Ficus platypoda grows as a lithophytic shrub or tree to 10 m high. The branchlets are covered in fine hairs. The leaves are alternately arranged along the stems and are elliptical to oval in shape, measuring 5.3 to 16.7 cm long by 3.1 to 13.3 cm wide. The undersurface is furry. The oval to round figs pale can be various shades of yellow, orange, pink, red or purple and 0.9–2.8 cm long by 1–2.8 cm across.[2]

Distribution and habitatEdit

Within Australia, it is found across the Top End, from the Gulf Country around the Gulf of Carpentaria across the Northern Territory and into northern Western Australia.[1] It generally found on sandstone outcrops, but has occasionally been found on limestone outcrops.[2]


The wasp species Pleistodontes cuneatus pollinates the rock fig.[2]


The fruit can be eaten when soft and ripe.[7] Horticulturally, it is suitable for use in bonsai; its tendency to form a wide trunk base and small leaves being attractive features.[8] Specimens have been exhibited in at the 5th Annual Exhibition of Australian Native Plants as Bonsai in Canberra in November 2007.[9]


  1. ^ a b Hyland, B. P. M.; Whiffin, T.; Zich, F. A.; et al. (Dec 2010). "Factsheet – Ficus platypoda". Australian Tropical Rainforest Plants. Edition 6.1, online version [RFK 6.1]. Cairns, Australia: Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), through its Division of Plant Industry; the Centre for Australian National Biodiversity Research; the Australian Tropical Herbarium, James Cook University. Retrieved 4 September 2015.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  2. ^ a b c d e Dixon, Dale J. (2001). "A Chequered History: the Taxonomy of Ficus platypoda and F. leucotricha (Moraceae: Urostigma sect. Malvanthera) Unravelled". Australian Systematic Botany. 14 (4): 535–63. doi:10.1071/sb00028.
  3. ^ Frodin, David G. (2004). "History and Concepts of Big Plant Genera". Taxon. 53 (3): 753–76. doi:10.2307/4135449. JSTOR 4135449.
  4. ^ a b Dixon, Dale J. (2003). "A Taxonomic Revision of the Australian Ficus Species in the Section Malvanthera (Ficus subg. Urostigma: Moraceae)" (PDF). Telopea. 10 (1): 125–53. doi:10.7751/telopea20035611.[permanent dead link]
  5. ^ Rønsted, Nina; Weiblen, G. D.; Clement, W. L.; Zerega, N. J. C.; Savolainen, V. (2008). "Reconstructing the Phylogeny of Figs (Ficus, Moraceae) to Reveal the History of the Fig Pollination Mutualism" (PDF). Symbiosis. 45 (1–3): 45–56.
  6. ^ a b Rønsted, Nina; Weiblen, George D.; Savolainen, V.; Cook, James M (2008). "Phylogeny, Biogeography, and Ecology of Ficus section Malvanthera (Moraceae)" (PDF). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 48 (1): 12–22. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2008.04.005. PMID 18490180.
  7. ^ Lindsay, Lenore (March 1992). "Fancy a feast? Try a fig". Australian Plants. 16 (130): 251–52.
  8. ^ Koreshoff, Dorothy and Vita (1984). Bonsai with Australian native Plants. Brisbane: Boolarong Publications. p. 52. ISBN 978-0-908175-66-6.
  9. ^ Hnatiuk, Roger (2008). "APAB-N Gallery No. 5". ASGAP Australian Plants as Bonsai Study Group Newsletter (13): 13–14.