Telling Newcastle figs apart


                                                                    People sensibly have better things to think about than how to tell figs apart. I thought I’d do a short post about the main sorts in Newcastle because I sometimes come across people who aren’t sure which one’s which. As any number of arborists will tell you, I’m no tree expert; that’s why this will be a short post. How much information can you fit on the back of a postage stamp?   

The picture on the left is a Hill’s fig. The picture on the right is of a row of Moreton Bays. Everyone in Newcastle knows this row of trees: it’s in Islington Park and it’s the row of trees that was threatened with removal in the 70’s. My recollection is that this was because ‘perverts’ could hide behind them.    

 The most obvious difference between the two types is their trunk. Hill’s figs have a pale trunk that’s usually obviously single but can divide into two or more branches at just about any level – usually about eye-height. Moreton Bays have black trunks and large buttress roots.   

The leaves are another way to tell them apart: instead of the small glossy light green leaves that a Hill’s fig has, Moreton Bays have dark green matte leaves and the leaves’ undersides are brown. This seems to me to be most obvious in hot or dry weather.   

Th leaves of a Hill's fig

Moreton Bay fig leaves

Moreton Bay trunk

There’s a Moreton Bay fig in Santa Barbara California that’s a tourist attraction(it’s number 16 on the Santa Barbara council site) ;it was named a ‘tree of notable historic interest’ in 1970. It’s 4 metres in diameter above its buttress roots. It has a park to itself and is well cared for. There’s a picture of – wait for it – a tree whisperer looking at it here . You have to admire their passion and I love the before and after shot of a tree they’ve concentrated their energy on which is on their website. Good on them.   

  I think the tree in the corner of Gregson Park in Hamilton (see bottom of page) is stunning and it’s huge but not as big as the Californian tree. I’ve only tried to measure it in hugs* but when you get up close and see the fantastic (I’m trying to be appreciative of biodiversity) insects and spiders living in its nooks and crannies your enthusiasm for hugging it wanes considerably.   

I nearly hugged this spider: it was scarier in person

 This spider doesn’t look like much but he was about the size of my foot and I felt like I was in an old Tarzan movie, standing in a place no one’s ever been before.  (*About treehugging: on the website of the Ancient Woodland Trust is a page on how to measure the diameter of a tree without a tape measure. They suggest hugs as a unit of tree measurement. I am here to tell you that when you’re walking on your own you think twice about doing this; you become very aware of passing cars.)  

 The Port Jackson fig is endemic to this area. According to the Centennial Parklands website it only reaches about 20 metres in height. These two things probably explain its popularity with councils, especially ours; the fact that’s it’s from around here and its shorter stature: a PJ fig will kill fewer people when it falls over. After all, that happens all the time… I find it hard to pick Port Jackson figs sometimes. The non-Hill’s fig in Laman Street is described in Mr Marsden’s report as being an unidentified species so even arborists can’t identify figs sometimes.  

 Different fig species seem to take it in turns to fruit and  the Port Jacksons seem to be having a turn at the moment. It must be months since the Hill’s figs started fruiting. (Is that a verb?)    There’s always a fantastic orange mess under the trees when the fruit are ripe and the bats enjoy themselves at night.  

 Hill’s figs are almost always graffitied in Newcastle. I love the inscription that says ‘TREE’ on one of the Laman Street figs. In case you hadn’t noticed that’s what it was.   

These are figs in National Park. Are they Port Jacksons? Their trunks are wrong for both Moreton Bays and Hill’s figs and their leaves are wrong for Hill’s. I’m sure someone smarter than I will let me know.

More soon.    Home






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One Response to “Telling Newcastle figs apart”

  1. Ali Says:

    What a great idea. Drop a few FREE HUGS signs around the figs tree trunk further embracing the popular FREE HUGS movement!

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