Since the LSU fig varieties were bred for southern climates, they are among the most collected for dixie growers. But even northern fig lovers appreciate the LSU figs and grow them in containers, performing the fig shuffle, and even planting them in ground.
It began back in the mid-1950’s, when Ed O’Rourke joined the LSU Department of Horticulture as a fruit breeder. The program ended in the mid-60s. Due to its ability to thrive in the Louisiana climate, Celeste was selected as the primary female parentage for LSU bred fig varieties. The Hunt, a variety developed in Georgia in 1929, was also used. A caprifig from California was used as the male parent.
When the fig breeding program ceased in the mid-1960s, O’Rourke had hundreds of trees planted across several locations in Louisiana, including Hammond Research Station and others.
In the 1990s, Charlie Johnson and AgCenter fruit specialist Jimmy Boudreaux worked with O’Rourke to identify the various trees that had been developed by him.
“We collected and identified individual plants from Ed’s original work,” Johnson said. “We compared them in several locations and assured they were truly AgCenter varieties.”
After the varieties were collected and identified, the researchers began to evaluate characteristics before they would release them to the public. Fruit size, cold-hardiness and disease resistance were determined, among other attributes.
“To truly evaluate figs, you need trees of the same age in the same soil,” Johnson said. “So we compared our trees with other known varieties over a five-year evaluation before we considered them for release.”
LSU Purple was released by the AgCenter in 1991 and LSU Gold in 1995. The Tiger, Champagne and O’Rourke (named after Ed) varieties were released in 2007. The Scott’s Black has also since been released.
The LSU fig varieties have been released to the public with no patent protection and may be propagated and sold by any nursery or individual. All releases were of O’Rourke’s original breedings.
You can see the list and get more details on each of the six officially released LSU figs in the Fig Variety Database here -> LSU Official.
In addition to the official LSU fig releases, there are 22 additional unofficial varieties that have made their way out of the LSU ag program. You can view those here -> LSU Unofficial.
If you prefer to see a combined list, you can view it here -> All LSU Varieties.
There is one additional fig variety that often contains the LSU prefix, Buddy Lee. However, it was not bred through the LSU ag program, but was merely an unknown variety grown at Burden Center in Baton Rouge.
There you have it, the LSU fig varieties. Good luck with your collecting!