Fig Variety Details

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Caprifig Type
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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 fig- growing 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.

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