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Longstreet Highroad Guide to the Florida Keys & Everglades

By Rick Ferren

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Florida Keys & Everglades > Sidebars > Strangler Fig
Strangler Fig (Ficus aurea) The seeds of this tree usually germinate in the bark crevices of other trees. The strangler fig sends out aerial roots that may wrap around or "strangle" the host tree. The roots eventually reach the ground and develop an independent root system.

Strangler Fig

The strangler fig is an unusual tree. It can grow as a normal tree from a seed dropping on ground, or it can begin life as an epiphyte after finding a foothold high in the branches of another tree. After securing a hold on a host tree, a strangler fig grows upward until it can set a crown of leaves above its host. At the same time, it sends down strangling aerial roots that wrap around the host tree on their way to the ground, eventually killing the host and leaving the strangler fig standing in its place.

The leaves of the strangler fig are leathery to the touch and dark green with yellow midribs. Fruits are true figs and have hollow centers that are eaten by birds. The fig seeds are then dispersed, sometimes into the tops of other trees, through bird droppings. The strangler figs are often seen strangling a cabbage palm or other tree but will also climb up abandoned cars and even chimneys.

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Published (print): 1999, Published (Web): January 2003, ISBN: 1-56352-543-7
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