Author Topic: Wild Fig Pollination?  (Read 2396 times)

Caesar

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Wild Fig Pollination?
« on: May 14, 2015, 02:09:14 PM »
I acquired some seeds for Sweet Sandpaper Fig (Ficus opposita), and am getting good germination thus far. I was really excited for this one, I heard it's one of the best wild figs. But aside from the "dioecious" issue (easily dealt with, as they apparently "bloom" at a very young age, in a pot), it occurs to me I might have trouble getting fruit set without the wasps. It's an Australian native, and I doubt it's pollinator has made it all the way to PR just yet. So I guess what I'm saying is: do I have a chance at fruiting this tree in PR?

With domestic figs, you have Smyrna figs which need wasp caprification to set fruit (they fall off otherwise), and persistent figs, which can set fruit uncaprified. But the situation seems a little more complex for Australian Figs. I checked an interesting blog on the subject (http://www.thefigsofaustralia.com/growing-australian-figs-from-seed/), and it states that unpollinated figs remain on the plant, but stay hard and inedible (the bottom comment is mine, but I hadn't seen its answer 'till just now 'cause I hadn't thought to turn on the browser cookies, :-[ ). So to reiterate that comment, is there a way I can acquire the wasps? Maybe getting a potted "blooming" tree shipped over? The author implies that other species of fig wasps "might" be able to pollinate it, but I thought fig wasps were highly specific in the species they pollinate.

Any thoughts and/or advice?

Ansarac

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Re: Wild Fig Pollination?
« Reply #1 on: May 14, 2015, 10:56:08 PM »
In my area of California, figs have been grown for generations, in part, due to the importation of  individual caprifigs, from overseas. When I researched this on Youtube, they were hand carried, from orchard to orchard, and hung by a string, like necklaces, on trees, which needed to be pollinated. There is no need to have an entire tree, per se.

I am not formally educated about this, but, to the best of my understanding, the harder, small figs, with gnat-like insects, do occur in the driveway, near my house, without any human intervention.

A local store sells 'Turkish Smyrna' figs, which are white, but this alleyway tree has purple-skinned fruit with red flesh.

So, I am assuming that the variety does not strictly have to be Smyrna, in order to bear caprifigs.

Do any kind of domestic figs, at all, grow near your house?

My ordinary fig seedlings developed fruit without any extra effort being taken, on my part.

I have an interest in Bible plants and have come across a potential, alternative method, which may have been used on sycamore figs.

You see, they apparently stay hard, on the tree, just like what you are describing. The pollinator is not known to exist in Israel, at least not today.

It used to be considered among the humblest of jobs (for someone like Amos) to repeatedly prick, bruise, or oil the skins of these figs. This would apparently cause natural ethylene gas to be trapped inside of the fruit, resulting in something more palatable.

Caesar

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Re: Wild Fig Pollination?
« Reply #2 on: May 15, 2015, 09:43:58 AM »
I have a Common Fig in my yard as well, but it's of the persistent type. No wasps needed, none observed thus far. I was wondering about importing an entire tree 'cause they apparently bear fruit at a really young age (one year, give or take) even in containers, so it wouldn't be too impractical for me to do so, if I could find someone that sells them. I'm just not sure the wasps would survive the trip on male figs isolated from the tree (in this particular species), never mind the fact that I'd like to actually establish them here instead of just importing them every season.

Maybe you're onto something with the ethylene. Perhaps the "bag them with an apple" trick might help to ripen them off-tree, but I'm not sure the taste is entirely the same if ripened that way, and the chances of seed development are zero. But it's definitely worth trying, especially if I might get a decent crop out of it. If I could find a local Smyrna Fig grower (or maybe "live" caprifigs online), I'd also be willing to try some cross-species experimentation... but then there's a chance I might get hybrids out of it. Not really sure that's a bad thing, though.   ;)

Ansarac

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Re: Wild Fig Pollination?
« Reply #3 on: May 15, 2015, 04:01:11 PM »
Caesar, this line of discussion is liable to fall under legal restrictions, with all due respect.

Caesar

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Re: Wild Fig Pollination?
« Reply #4 on: May 15, 2015, 05:41:57 PM »
 :-[ How so? If this is about the pollinator introduction, all you gotta do is say so. I know my limits, I'm not looking to break the law.  :)

I have access to the local legal literature, so I know the plant itself isn't forbidden. It wouldn't take me long to find out about the wasps. If they're off limits, then my work with the species is done... at least until I work with the local Ag department, where I can work out the legal issues hand-in-hand with the local law.
« Last Edit: May 15, 2015, 05:45:41 PM by Caesar »

Ansarac

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Re: Wild Fig Pollination?
« Reply #5 on: May 15, 2015, 07:34:41 PM »
In my experience, these sorts of things get inspected, at random. Some make it through, some don't.

I've heard stories about very ordinary things, like dry corn.

It's not that I have any personal convictions against it, per se.

Caesar

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Re: Wild Fig Pollination?
« Reply #6 on: May 15, 2015, 08:43:40 PM »
If the price to pay is jail time or a fine, I'd be a little wary about such things. Like I said, I don't wanna break the law. But if the worst that could happen is confiscation of the package, I usually take the risk. Haven't lost one yet, though there's a first time for everything. Some things are worth the risk (though if there's a genuine risk to the local environment, I wouldn't consider it a risk worth taking).

Ansarac

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Re: Wild Fig Pollination?
« Reply #7 on: May 16, 2015, 11:03:09 PM »
While jailing and fines are theoretically possible, all that I have ever encountered are arbitrary seizures.

Every once in a great while, there will be colorful tape, showing where the package has been opened. The contents are presumably destroyed, and there is a receipt inside, to that effect.

Sometimes, it has been quarantined, so that the plant arrives dead, after some weeks in transit.

And, rarely, some germicidal chemical is sprayed inside, causing destruction of the plant material.

I hear interesting stories --
http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/312387

But, they may not be concerned, at all, if there is no industry dealing in that kind of fruit, or if no particular pest is associated with it. This wold certainly not be a protected specie.

So, restrictions on your end may be very lax or nonexistent, for all I know. I don't have any idea what is expected of you, just wanted to make you aware that it's discussed. Sorry, if it was a false alarm.

Caesar

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Re: Wild Fig Pollination?
« Reply #8 on: May 17, 2015, 07:20:13 PM »
No worries. Better a false alarm than a real - yet not discussed - problem.

Apart from the major industries (Bananas, Citrus, Coffee), the local plant import laws seem kind of lax. It seems they let you import pretty much anything, provided it isn't a threat to those industries, at least for the time being. I've purchased a few plants before, without the phytosanitary certificates, and they've arrived fine so far. I just hope that doesn't change in the long run.

Regarding the figs, if Smyrna-based pollination of my Sandpaper Figs is successful, should I attempt to rear some seeds from that batch? It'd be interesting to see if I get some hybrids out of it, even if they end up sterile. It doesn't seem a likely cross, but I've heard of weirder crosses, F. carica x pumila being one of them.

Ansarac

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Re: Wild Fig Pollination?
« Reply #9 on: May 18, 2015, 05:35:48 PM »
Everything which we consider to be good or useful, whether it is a functional plant, or just ornamental, is probably a chance mutation of a wild plant, or the hybrid of one. Maybe, you will come up with something new or just entertain yourself, trying.

I know of grape and wild grape hybrids, which have strange chromosome numbers. There have been colorful tomatoes with unstable characteristics, and nuts bred to be self-fertile. If you're lucky enough to improve upon something, it would also take work to establish a holding pattern, so as not to lose the progress, which you have made.

People have made a life's work out of projects like that.

While we don't realistically expect to become rich and famous, entire cities have been named after people who did this kind of work --
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luther_Burbank

And, our local streets are named after apple varieties.
« Last Edit: May 18, 2015, 06:11:43 PM by Ansarac »

Caesar

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Re: Wild Fig Pollination?
« Reply #10 on: May 19, 2015, 10:23:29 PM »
Oh yes, I'm quite familiar with the work of Luther Burbank. Not very scientifically methodical, but his results speak for themselves, very impressive. I was actually thinking that I'd like to pick up some of his experiments where he left off. I have several hybrids and other projects already in the planning stages, and while I doubt I'll be as prolific as him, I intend to contribute whatever I can to the world of plant breeding.

His peculiar "pomato" fruit was particularly interesting. It was a shame that he didn't take the time to fix the traits, it seemed like a useful garden vegetable. If I could track down the parent stock, I'd like to try my hand at re-breeding said hybrid further down the road. In the meantime, I'm still just a farmer-in-training and amateur fruit collector with a collection bigger than his space allows. Not many resources for experimenting, but maybe this upcoming fig hybrid will give me a chance.   :)

Ansarac

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Re: Wild Fig Pollination?
« Reply #11 on: May 20, 2015, 03:18:31 PM »
Michurin was especially controversial, but his mentor grafting method may be useful, here.

Caesar

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Re: Wild Fig Pollination?
« Reply #12 on: May 21, 2015, 09:13:41 PM »
Good call! Hadn't heard of Michurin, but he certainly seems to be on par with Burbank in significance, even if he wasn't quite as prolific. His techniques certainly open up some new possibilities for experimenting. Thanks for the heads up.

Mentor grafting might help out with the fig, but I'm not sure how young it'd need to be in order to be effective. At their current size, grafting is impossible, and they go from too-small to fruiting size in only a year.

Mentor pollination also peaked my interest. Some of the Myrtle hybrids I had in mind seem a little too distant to be feasible, but this technique might help them work out.

 

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