Moreton Bay Fig – Ficus macrophylla
Other Names: Australian Banyan, Figwood, Black Fig, karreuaira (Dharawal), guwanggaga (Gumbaynggirr).
Distinguishing Characteristics: Like many Fig trees, the Morton Bay Fig develops a wide trunk with tall, ribbony, buttressed roots. It forms a dense canopy of glossy evergreen leaves with rust-colored undersides. It can grow as a single-trunk tree, but more likely it grows as a parasitic 'strangler fig': born from a seed dispersed by a bird or bat atop a tree, it starts life as an epiphyte, absorbing nutrients and water from the air, dropping down aerial roots from the host's branches that eventually take root in the earth. Over time, roots aggressively intertwine the trunk and fuse together, creating a latticework. Out-competing the host for space, nutrients and light, eventually the new tree becomes freestanding. The leaves and branches bleed a milky sap if cut. The fruits are small figs that turn from green to purple with spots when ripe.
Distribution: Native to the east coast of Australia, from the Atherton Tableland, Queensland, to north of Illawarra, New South Wales. Elevation: sea level to 3,000 ft. (900 m).
Ecosystem: Found in subtropical, warm temperate, and dry tropical rainforests, from river valleys to slopes, often along watercourses in association with White Booyong, White Walnut, Giant Stinging Tree, Lacebark, Red Cedar, Hoop Pine, and Green-Leaved Fig.
Maximum Age: Estimated at 200 years.
Maximum Height and Girth: 200 ft. (60 m) in height; 60 ft. (18 m) in circumference.
Animal Community: The figs are an important food source to such birds as the wompoo fruit-dove, topknot pigeon, rose-crowned fruit-dove, Lewin's honeyeater, yellow-eyed cuckoo-shike, pied currawong, Australasian figbird, green catbird, regent bowerbird, and satin bowerbird. It is also consumed by rodents such as the Sydney bush rat, and bats such as the grey-headed flying fox. All Ficus species are dependent upon one species of wasp to pollinate them; the Morton Bay Fig relies on Pleistodontes froggatti for reproduction.
Medicine: The sap was used to treat wounds.
Food: Although not very palatable, the small fruits were eaten.
Fiber: String fiber from the bark was made into fishing nets, dilly bags, and cloth.
Tools and Objects: The root buttresses were made into shields.
Transportation: Bark and branches were made into canoes.
Modern Uses: The Morton Bay Fig is used as paneling, in cabinetwork and to make packing cases.
Threats and Conservation: Not threatened.