_Caprifig TYPE

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Condit Monograph

Caprifigs are characterized by the presence inside the syconium of short styled pistillate flowers, the ovaries of which may be inhabited by the larvae of the fig insect, Blastophaga psenes Cav. In one or more crops, staminate flowers which produce pollen may be present. Three crops of a caprifig tree are generally recognized and, as Eisen (1896) predicted, their Italian names have become household words in various figgrowing countries. These names are: Mamme, the first or winter crop, maturing in California in early April; profichi, the second or spring crop, maturing in June; and mammoni, the third crop, maturing in late summer. Further details about these names and crops may be found in numerous publications, among which are the following: Eisen (1896, 1901), Rixford (1918a), and Condit (1920a).

Caprification, the practice of providing for the pollination of the long styled flowers of edible figs, has been carried on since ancient times in Asia, Africa, and Europe, and varieties of caprifigs were undoubtedly recognized and names applied to them. Contrary to the statement of Eisen (1901) that no caprifigs had previously been described, Gasparrini published descriptions and illustrations of several varieties over a century ago. Eisen himself described fifteen varieties under variety names, and four more under numbers. The most fully detailed descriptions with illustrations are those of F. Vallese (1909) and N. Mann (1939a).

There are very few records of attempts to classify caprifig varieties into groups or to separate them by means of a key. One such key, published by W. T. Swingle (1905), included seven principal varieties of Neapolitan caprifigs distinguished from each other by size, shape, and lobes of leaves, length of petiole, and form and color of fruit. A key to the identification of caprifigs can be constructed for the varieties commonly grown in any one district but, like most botanical keys, it can hardly be sufficiently perfected to avoid mistakes in identity, owing to local variation in size, shape, color, or other characters. A sample dichotomous key to the principal caprifigs grown in California is given here.

Suggestive Key for Identification of California Caprifigs, Profichi Crop

Internal Color of figs white with no trace of pink, violet, or purple.

  • External Color green or yellowish green.
    • Figs becoming soft and edible when mature, with little if any pollen; blastophagas seldom issuing from them -> Croisic
    • Figs not pulpy when mature, usually with numerous pollen-bearing stamens and insect-inhabited flowers.
      • Body of fig longer than broad; neck and stalk often somewhat curved; base of leaf truncate; tree with rounded top, spreading -> Stanford
      • Body of fig oblate or spherical; neck thick and short; base of leaf shallowly subcordate; tree with upright branches -> Maslin No. 150
  • External color violet, purplish black, or green shaded with violet.
    • Fruit stalk or peduncle slender, generally up to 1/4 inch long, or longer.
      • Figs green until almost mature, then changing to purplish black; leaves variable, nonlobed, or only shallowly lobed to lyrate or laciniate -> Ficus palmata
      • Figs when immature colored brown, purplish black when mature leaves 3- to 5-lobed -> Ficus pseudo-carica
    • Fruit stalk or peduncle mostly thick and short.
      • Figs small, seldom over 1-1/4 inches in diameter; leaf petioles and twigs purplish brown and densely pubescent; neck generally somewhat flattened -> Brawley
      • Figs larger, 1-1/2 inches or more in diameter; leaf petioles and twigs green, not pubescent; green color of fruit persisting until maturity, then becoming purplish black; neck round in cross section -> Maslin No. 91

Internal color of figs purple or violet.

  • Figs without a distinct neck.
    • Eye in center of a depression; bloom conspicuous; size medium or above; season late -> Milco
    • Eye slightly protruding; bloom delicate; size medium or below; season early -> Roeding No. 1
  • Figs with a distinct neck.
    • Neck not prominent, short and thick, seldom up to 1/4 inch long.
      • Ribs prominent; surface corrugated -> Roeding No. 4
      • Ribs, if present, not forming corrugated surface.
        • Eye protruding from broad, rounded apex; size medium or below; neck short -> Roeding No. 1
        • Eye not protruding.
          • Eye more or less flush with the surface.
            • Flecks of white inconspicuous; size below medium to small; tree with slender, upright branches; bark of trunk scaly -> Roeding No. 2
            • Flecks of white very conspicuous; size medium to large; tree dense; bark of trunk furrowed -> Samson
          • Eye somewhat depressed; bloom conspicuous -> Milco
    • Neck more or less prominent.
      • Neck flattened in majority of specimens.
        • Bark of tree trunk scaly; figs below medium to small; skin color reddish brown when mature -> Roeding No. 2
        • Bark of trunk smooth; figs medium; color green -> Roeding No. 4
    • Neck round or angular in cross section.
      • Size medium, 1-1/2 inches or less in diameter.
        • Body of fig obovate, top-shaped, or oblate; white flecks very conspicuous; circular mosaic spots present on many figs early in the season, causing them to become malformed and to drop prematurely; Color deep green; bark of trunk furrowed -> Samson
        • Body of fig spherical; white flecks small, fairly prominent; color light green; bark of trunk smooth -> Roeding No. 1
      • Size above medium to large, over 1-1/2 inches in diameter.
        • Tree densely branched.
          • Terminal buds tawny; lateral fruit buds colored violet; bark of trunk smooth -> Roeding No. 3
          • Terminal and lateral buds green; bark of trunk furrowed -> Samson
        • Tree open, with upright habit of growth; terminal buds green; figs very large -> Excelsior

The following description of caprifigs on the island of Malta is by J. Borg (1922): A considerable proportion of seedlings, especially those originating from the white or light-colored edible varieties, produce uneatable fruits; and when they produce several crops, they are called caprifigs, and fruit may be used as such. However, the fruit of the true caprifigs is always more or less dry, becoming soft at maturity, but never fleshy or luscious as the edible figs. A “dry” caprifig is essential for the proper development of the Blastophaga, and therefore good sorts of caprifigs are always propagated by cuttings or layers, or budded on seedlings. The two best-known caprifigs are the socalled white caprifig (duccar abjad) and the red caprifig (duccar atimar). The white caprifig is that most frequently met with. Its fruits are whitish green, with red scales at the orifice. The red caprifig is smaller, round, or somewhat flattened, of a uniform, rusty greenish-red color it is “drier” than the white variety, and is preferred whenever obtainable. A late variety of green caprifig, producing long fruits, which mature their galls about three weeks later than the other sorts, is much valued for the caprification of late or secondary crops of figs which otherwise would be lost.

The Fig: Botany, Horticulture, and Breeding

The fourth type [caprifig] serves as a source of pollen for commercial plantings of the cauducous types and is known as caprifig. The caprifig is generally termed male or goat fig, reflecting lack of value as human food and, with a few exceptions, is inedible. However, the caprifig is-not only male, and the syconium usually contains both staminate and shortstyled pistillate flowers. The staminate flowers are located in a limited area surrounding the ostiole, while the short-styled pistillate flowers occupy most of the interior surface of the syconium. The short-style pistillate flowers are adapted to oviposition by the symbiotic fig wasp Blastophaga psenes, which has coevolved with the fig (Galil and Eisikowitch 1968; Galil and Neeman 1977; Kjellberg et al. 1987).
The caprifig tree typically produces three crops of fruit annually, each harboring the larvae, pupae, and temporarily the adult Blastophaga wasps. The 'spring crop profichi, the pollen source for the edible fig, are produced in large numbers on wood from the previous season. Summer crop mammoni are produced as single or double fruits in the axils of leaves on branches of the current season. They mature during October when the Blastophaga wasps leave them and enter young mamme that develop on current growth. Cool temperatures in October and November retard development of mamme fruit and their attendant wasp larvae, which overwiñter and develop into pupae in March.
Regarding the wasplife cycle, in early April, the adult male wasp emerges through the ovary wall. When free in the fig cavity, the male searches for female wasps and copulates with them. The females emerge from the mamme fruit and search for developing profichi fruitlets. The females then lay eggs in ovaries of the short-styled pistillate flowers of the profichi spring crop. An important botanical component of this coevolution is the protogynous nature of the caprifig so that pistillate flowers are receptive six to eight weeks before anthers mature in the same syconium (Condit 1932). Through this feature, wasps enter, pollinate, and oviposit a syconium, which later has mature pollen as the next wasp generation emerges.

Condit Group
Sub Family
Persistent Caprifig
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