Friday, 25 July 2008

Silent Green Vandalism

A friend of mine once joked that if there were ever a nuclear explosion in South Africa, the only things that would survive would be the cockroaches and Natal Figs (Ficus natalensis).
In the right place, these beautiful trees can be the crowning glory in a garden. Birds and bats love their fruit, insects love their flowers, and a host of creatures use them as homes and hiding places. They grow easily from seeds or cuttings, and will reach a height and circumference of ±20m if they are in the right place.

They can also be a nightmare if they are left to grow in the wrong place. I have seen countless broken walls that have had a small Natal Fig left to grow in a tiny crack. The leaves and stem are often hacked back, but the roots are incessant. Before you know it they have expanded and done irreparable damage. The roots can often be found at a distance of 2-3 times the radius of the canopy, looking for water. So they should never be planted anywhere near pools or drains.


Because of their amazing roots, they are also commonly known as strangler figs. They are often found growing out of a tiny reservoir of decaying leaves in hollows of other trees, but the roots soon find their way down to the ground, and within a short space of time, they begin to surround and smother their supporting tree. Its actually a very effective way of dealing with unwanted alien trees. (Provided you have the space for a large Fig in its place.)

If you do find a little green vandal growing where it shouldn't be, try to pull the plant out by the roots (if its still young), or cut it back and apply a mixture of diesel and garlon to the cut piece. If you do manage to pull it out, they make great-looking fast-growing bonsai that are easy to look after.
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