63. The Fig Tree

The Broom Cluster Fig (or Cape Fig) is a fast-growing, evergreen tree. It usually grows from 16 – 39 ft in height, but has been know to grow to a height of 115 ft or more.

Older trees develop a massive spreading crown, fluted trunks, and wide buttress roots which help to keep the shallow-rooted tree from falling over.

The figs are produced from September to March. They appear on short or long drooping spurs which may emerge from surface roots, the trunk or most commonly from lower main branches.

The tree has large leaves with serrated edges.

The fig tree provides medicine, food, shade and shelter for all nature of animals, large and small.

 The wood of the Broom Cluster Fig is soft and white and has been used for making mortars for grinding flour as well as making drums. In modern times this tree is used most extensively as a shade tree.

The fig tree is believed to have magical powers and is used in many rituals by local people.

As a child, Wangari Maathai learned from her grandmother that a large fig tree near her family home in central Kenya was sacred and not to be disturbed. She remembered gathering water at the springs protected by the roots of that tree. She remembered resting in its shade.
After completing her education in the U.S., she returned to Kenya and found the tree had been felled. Reflecting on what that had done to the surrounding area, Maathai went on to become “the woman who planted millions of trees.”