Characteristics of Rusty Fig (Ficus rubiginosa) in the Wild

Ficus rubiginosa
The Rusty fig or Port Jackson fig (Ficus rubiginosa) is a species of fig native to eastern Australia. The species was described by the French botanist René Louiche Desfontaines in 1804, from a type specimen whose location is documented only as “New Holland”.

The Rusty fig’s wilderness range stretches across Australia’s eastern coastline, from the summit of the Cape York Peninsula in north Queensland to around the Bega on the south coast of New South Wales. The range extends west into Porcupine Gorge National Park in Queensland and the plains far west in New South Wales.

Rusty figs are found in rainforests, forest edges, ditches, riverbanks, shrubs, and rocky hillsides. Lithophytic, hemiepiphytic, and tree forms can be found together in local plant populations.

Rusty fig seedlings often grow from rock crevices where seeds have nested, in locations such as cliffs and rock faces in natural environments, or on walls in buildings and elsewhere in urban environments.

Rusty fig can grow in various places ranging from sandstone, quartzite, and basalt. In the Sydney region, the Rusty fig grows from 0-1000 m asl, in areas with an average annual rainfall of 600-1,400 mm.

Outside of their native range, Rusty figs have naturalized to some degree in the cities of Melbourne and Adelaide in Australia, as well as New Zealand, Hawaii, California, and Mediterranean Europe. Rusty figs are also often grown as indoor ornamental trees, medium-sized ornamental trees, garden shade trees, and sometimes as bonsai.


The Rusty fig is very similar to its relative, the Moreton Bay fig (Ficus macrophylla), which also has a similar range in the wild. Smaller leaves, shorter fruit stalks, and rust color on the underside of Ficus rubiginosa leaves are the easiest distinguishing features.

The rusty fig is also confused with the Small-leaved fig (Ficus obliqua), the smaller Syconia, measuring 4-12 mm long and 4-11 mm in diameter, compared to the 7-17 mm long and 8-17 mm diameter of Ficus rubiginosa.


Characteristics of Rusty Fig Leaf

Ficus rubiginosa Leaf

The leaves are oval and glossy green, measuring 4-20 cm long and 1-13 cm wide.


Characteristics of Rusty Fig

Ficus rubiginosa Fruit

The fruit is small, round, yellow, and turns red when ripe. This tree bears fruit all year round, peaking in spring and summer. Like all figs, the fruit is Syconium-shaped, an inverted inflorescence with flowers lining the internal cavity.

Rusty figs are pollinated exclusively by the fig wasp species Pleistodontes imperialis, which may consist of four crypto species.


Characteristics of Rusty Fig Tree

Ficus rubiginosa Tree

Rusty fig grows as a tree up to 30 meters high and its canopy is almost the same width as the tree height. The wood is light yellow-brown, light, soft and brittle.

Although the Rusty fig has relatively large leaves, this tree can be used as a bonsai subject because it is very easy and difficult to kill. The leaves are reduced and shrink if done pruning in early summer. The Rusty fig is described as the best tree for beginners, it is one of the most commonly used native species in Australia.

Ficus rubiginosa has been awarded the Royal Horticultural Society of Garden Merit.



Rusty figs are fairly easy to propagate by cuttings or aerial layering.


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