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see also Celeste

DFIC 360

see Celeste


Malta was Condit's primary name for the Celeste variety, but Malta has been largely replaced by Celeste in modern usage.


(syns. Small Brown, Celeste, Celestial, Sugar, Blue Celeste, Celeste Violette). Described as Malta by Miller (1768), Hanbury (1770), Forsyth (1803), Brookshaw (1812, with color plate), Green (1824), George Lindley (1831), Holley (1854), M’Intosh (1855), Dochnahl (1855), and by Bunyard and Thomas (1904). Described as Celeste by Affleck (1850, 1852, 1854), White (1868), Massey (1893), Burnette (1894), Eisen (1885, 1897, 1901*),8 Earle (1900), Price and White (1902*), Starnes (1903*), Starnes and Monroe (1907), Anon. (1908), Van Velzer (1909*), Reimer (1910*), Potts (1917), Gould (1919*), Hume (1915*), W. S. Anderson (1924-1928), Mowry and Weber (1925), Woodroof and Bailey (1931*), Stansel and Wyche (1932), Woodard (1938, 1940), Ashley (1940), and Condit (1941a*, 1947*).

The identity of the Celeste fig, so widely grown in the southern United States, has long been in doubt. White (1868) suggested that it might prove to be the Malta described by previous authors. Others seem to have overlooked this suggestion, but a close comparison of descriptions of Malta and Celeste leaves no doubt of their identity. English writers reiterate the statement of Miller, that Malta shrivels on the tree and becomes a fine sweetmeat. Stansel and Wyche report that in Texas, Celeste will dry on the tree to some extent without souring. Bunyard and Thomas state that Malta “is in all respects like Brown Turkey except in the shape of the fruits, which are shorter and of peg-top shape.” Figue d’Automne or Celeste, listed by Ballon (1692), and Liger (1702), as bearing fruit which may remain on the tree during the winter and mature in the spring, is apparently a different variety.

As early as 1850, Thomas Affleck reported that of the twenty-odd sorts of figs in his orchard at Washington, Mississippi, the Celeste or Celestial was the general favorite. Source of the first importation of Celeste and the significance of the name have not been learned. In its catalogue of 1828, Bartram’s Botanic Garden, Philadelphia, offered “Coelestial” fig trees at fifty cents each. For a century or more it has been the leading variety in Louisiana and Mississippi; Earle (1897) reported that nine-tenths of all figs grown in these two states were Celeste. In Georgia, Woodard showed that this variety ranked with Brunswick and Brown Turkey in high production and resistance to winter injury.

Although Malta is a common fig, trees do drop a considerable percentage of their crop under some circumstances. W. S. Anderson found in Mississippi in 1924, that many fruits set, but when not more than, one-half inch in diameter they usually shriveled and fell off; the trees bore better crops in dooryards than under orchard conditions, either with clean culture or in permanent sod. Canning companies at St. Martinsville, Elizabeth, and Jeanerette, Louisiana, harvest Malta (Celeste) figs from dooryard trees, and handle considerable quantities as preserves under various brands. In the garden of the restored governor’s mansion at Williamsburg, Virginia, there is a planting of fig trees consisting mostly of this variety.

Malta (Celeste) was introduced into California from eastern nurseries between 1860 and 1870, but on account of the small size of the fruit (has never attracted attention commercially. Individual trees are occasionally found in yards, but most homeowners prefer varieties which either produce two crops, or a single crop of larger fruit. Trees are hardy, partly on account of prolonged spring dormancy. According to Stansel and Wyche, they were not injured in Texas by a temperature of 11°F. in 1930.

In the southern United States it is generally considered to be a vigorous grower, but in California trees are slow-growing and dwarf in habit as compared with trees of most commercial varieties. Terminal buds are green. Leaves below medium, glossy, 3- to 5- lobed; upper sinuses moderately deep and broad, lower sinuses shallow; base subcordate; margins crenate.

Breba crop small, or mostly none; in Texas a few brebas occasionally mature in May, the individual figs being larger than those of the main crop.

Second-crop figs at Riverside, California, small, up to 1-3/4 inches long and 1-1/4 inches in diameter, pyriform, with neck tapering gradually from body to stalk; average weight 14 grams; stalk slender, up to 3/4 inch long; ribs broad, slightly elevated; eye medium, partly open, but not readily admitting dried-fruit beetles; scales chaffy, erect at maturity; surface dull, with conspicuous bloom often absent from a sharply defined apical zone; white flecks scattered, fairly conspicuous, but becoming masked by mature body color; skin checking crisscross at maturity; color violet-bronze to chocolate brown; pulp strawberry; flavor sweet and rich; seeds small, hardly noticeable; quality good. Figs drop and dry without spoiling. (Plates 9; 25, C.)

Caprified figs are larger, spherical-turbinate; pronounced violet tint outside and dark strawberry inside flavor subacid; seeds numerous.

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Breba Crop

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