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Difference between Ficus retusa and Ficus microcarpa

Ficus retusa L.
Many bonsai enthusiasts and even plant sellers mistake Ficus retusa for the other Ficus species which are generally descended from Ficus microcarpa. This confusion is due to the lack of information regarding the real Ficus retusa.

Outside the territory of Indonesia and Malaysia, Ficus retusa species are very difficult to find, even in their native habitat, they are rare except in primary forests that are not touched by humans.

Luckily, some people provide information to the public about the shape of the leaves of Ficus retusa to avoid the naming mistakes that keep happening all this time. The following is the original photo of the Ficus retusa leaf.


Ficus retusa

Ficus retusa
Characteristics of Ficus retusa
The leaves are wide, thick, stiff, dark green on old leaves and brown or reddish on young leaves, the tips of the leaves are blunt or semi-circular, and the stems are smooth and bright gray.

Common names
Ara Jejawi, Malayan Banyan

The picture above is the shape of the original Ficus retusa leaf which was photographed by sogellizer and uploaded to the inaturalist site.

From the image, Ficus retusa fits very closely with the illustration depicted by Herbarium Bogoriense in the year 1955.

Figure of Ficus retusa at the Herbarium Bogoriense
Figure of Ficus retusa at the Herbarium Bogoriense | Source:

FYI: Ficus retusa has a synonym named Ficus truncata which is also recognized in scientific journals. The name Ficus truncata is used in the illustration depicting Ficus retusa in Koorders & Valeton’s 1918 “Atlas der Baumarten von Java”.


Figure of Ficus truncata (Koorders and Valeton 1918)
Figure of Ficus truncata (Koorders and Valeton 1918) | Source:

After you ascertain the leaf shape and characteristics of Ficus retusa above, you can distinguish it from Ficus microcarpa var which is often referred to as Ficus retusa. Ficus microcarpa does have many anonymous varieties that grow in Southeast Asia and are taken to various parts of the world to be planted as an ornamental tree and especially for bonsai objects because of its elegant foliage.

The following are some of the varieties of Ficus microcarpa which is often called Ficus retusa in western countries.


Ficus microcarpa ‘Golden’

Ficus microcarpa 'Golden'
Characteristics of Ficus microcarpa ‘Golden’
Broadleaf, drooping, smooth, not stiff, dark green on old leaves and bright yellow on young leaves, tapered at the end, with sparsely spotted stems.

Common names
Indian Laurel, Ficus Golden, Iprik

The first is the Ficus microcarpa ‘Golden’ and this type that is most commonly called Ficus retusa by western people. They are known as the Indian Laurel because they are found in India and spread to Australia through all the mainland in Southeast Asia. The shape of the leaves to the tree is completely different from the original Ficus retusa, also different from the Ficus microcarpa ‘Kinmen’.

There are at least 3 types of this which are differentiated according to the color of the leaves. One is best known for having young leaves that are always yellow, another one that has young leaves that are brownish to ground red, and the last one has short-stemmed leaves, yellow leaf bones, and slightly thick leaves like the picture above.


Ficus microcarpa var. crassifolia

Ficus microcarpa 'Long island'
Characteristics of Ficus microcarpa var. crassifolia
The leaves are medium, facing upward, thick, oval or ovate, stiff, dark green and the stems are dark gray with few spots.

Common names
Ficus Longisland, Ficus Green Mound

The second is the Ficus microcarpa var. crassifolia, sometimes known as Ficus Longisland, this is a descendant of the Ficus microcarpa that does not yet have a scientifically recognized name. However, western people call it by the name Ficus Longisland or Ficus Green Mound without giving the microcarpa in the middle of the name.

The shape of the leaves is similar to the Ficus Green Island (Ficus microcarpa var. latifolia), which makes this species mistaken. Many plant sellers sell Ficus microcarpa var. latifolia with the name Ficus retusa, it can also be found on the online shop, especially pre-bonsai plant sellers.


Ficus microcarpa ‘Kinmen’

Ficus microcarpa 'Kinmen'
Characteristics of Ficus microcarpa ‘Kinmen’
Small, upward-facing, slightly stiff leaves, dark green on old leaves and yellowish on young leaves, tapered at the end, with ample white-spotted stems.

Common names
Chinese Banyan, Ficus Tiger Bark, Kinmen

The latter is a type of Ficus microcarpa ‘Kinmen’ and is known by the common name Ficus Tiger Bark or Chinese banyan. It is the only one of the three Ficus microcarpa breeds to have a specific and scientifically recognized name.

Besides the mistake of calling Ficus microcarpa is Ficus retusa, there are also those who say Ficus nitida is Ficus retusa. In fact, Ficus nitida is a synonymous name for Ficus microcarpa.

Grafting Adds to Mistakes
As we know, Ficus is easy to graft with other Ficus (although not all of them work). So, this also adds to the confusion if the tree that has been successfully grafted is photographed and uploaded to the internet, there will be a debate if someone who does not understand grafting believes in his beliefs.

After you pay attention to all the images above, of course, you can now recognize the name and shape of the leaf as well as its size. Let’s learn together to correct the mispronunciation of names that often occurs by many bonsai enthusiasts and plant sellers.



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