The sandpaper fig
Ficus hispida (Moraceae) or ‘sandpaper fig’ is a very common fig tree around Chiang Mai in northern Thailand. It is a fast-growing tree characterized by a white latex, rough, sandpapery leaves and fruits formed straight on the trunk and main branches. The sandpaper fig often pop up like a weed, even in flowering pots. It is highly resistant to drought, a rare trait among figs.
The Dokmai garden specimen was probably introduced by a bird and is now a low tree with a massive production of fruits. The fruits are not as tasty as those of F. racemosa and F. auriculata, two other native fig species found at Dokmai Garden, but their abundance make the tree a good bird magnet. The figs can also be used to feed our wild boar or be used for making marmalade.
Text & Photo: Eric Danell