Wednesday, April 17, 2024

The amazing thing about figs

This morning Husband said, "The fig tree has lots of fruit on it, but it's strange: I've never seen any flowers."
"How can it produce fruit if it doesn't have flowers?"
He shrugged. "I don't know."

So, while waiting for a radio programme to start so I can the ironing I thought I'd check it out. 

This is what I learned: figs aren't fruit but inverted flowers. Multiple flowers bloom inside the pod that matures into the fruit we eat. How amazing is that? (You probably already knew.)

So how is it pollinated?

By a fig wasp. The fig and the fig wasp have a symbiotic relationship. They can't live without each other, it's called mutualism. 

Now pay attention because it gets complicated. The female wasp buries into the male fig and lays its larva. She's basically digging her own grave because the space is so narrow her wings break off and she can't get out. Male baby wasps don't have wings because their job is to mate with the baby girl wasps (their sisters) and dig a tunnel for them to get out. The female wasps fly out taking pollen with them.

Now if a female wasp buries into a female fig she loses her wings but can't reproduce because there isn't enough room. So she just dies but has deposited the pollen giving us the fruit. 

Apparently we only eat female figs so if you bite into a fig and it's a bit crunchy it could be the remains of a wasp! (Most of it is broken down into protein by an enzyme in the fig.)

I am amazed once again by the things I don't know.


Marie Smith said...

Amazing! And I like figs in spite of the wasp remains!

jabblog said...

I didn't know that. Thank you for the information. We had a large productive fig tree for years and then it just upped and died.

Debra She Who Seeks said...

I did not know this!

Liz Hinds said...

Apparently lots of figs now are self-fertilising so no wasps needed! It's too cold in Britain for fig wasps so presumably ours is self-fertilising. And how that works I have no clue. It's like grapes without pips.

Boud said...

I love fresh figs but our climate doesn't seem to like them, cold winters. I never noticed that figs don't have flowers!

Kathy G said...

I had no idea. Thanks. My area is on the cusp for being too cold for figs in the ground, but the botanical garden puts them in planters so they can move them inside a hothouse in the winter.

The Happy Whisk said...

I new about the wasps though didn't know about the inverted flower. That's nest. Thanks for the details. Oh my yum. I love figs!

acorn hollow said...

Ok now I will never eat another fig ugggg I loved them too!

Ann said...

I didn't know this. Interesting.

Polly said...

oh that's so sad. Thank you for the very interesting facts, a friend of mine has an impressive fig tree that usually yields a good amount every year but I've never realised that it doesn't flower, so now I know :-)

Cop Car said...

I'm happy to see that I'm not the only ignorant person whom you have educated about fig fruits. Somewhere in the convoluted matter of my brain, I had thought that a fig wasp was a bad thing. I'm wondering if my fig-loving elder brother knows all of this. (He probably does.)