Ficus racemosa: Cluster fig

Family: Moraceae
Common name: Cluster fig, Country fig, Gular fig, Red river fig, Goolar, Gular

Cluster figs are large deciduous trees that grow up to 30 meters tall, with a trunk diameter of up to 3 meters with large buttresses all around as the tree grows older. They are native to the Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia, and Australia, and is often grown as a shade tree in coffee plantations.

These trees have a characteristic aerial root system, which grows from the branches and descends to the ground, where it takes root and becomes a secondary trunk. This makes the tree an important part of the ecosystem, providing stability to riverbanks and preventing soil erosion.

The leaves of the Cluster fig tree are large and heart-shaped, with a glossy, dark green color. The fruits of the tree, which are small and reddish in color, grow in large bulbous clusters on the branches and are a favorite food source for many animals, including birds and primates.

Fig trees have a very unique form of fertilization. The flowers are inside the fruit, the pollen, styles, and stigma pointing towards the inner hollow area inside the fruit.

Female fig wasps that specialize in pollination of fig tree bore small holes in the fruit, enter inside, and lay eggs. Once the male wasps emerge from the eggs, they fertilize the female wasps, and also makes holes for the female wasps to come out of the fruits. These fertilized female wasps them lay eggs in other figs repeating the cycle.

Pollination and fertilization can take place only during the flowering season of the figs, hence making it difficult for the wasps to continue to survive. The fruit is also an important source of food for small animals and birds, which helps in seed dispersal.

Fig fruits have a variety of uses. They are eaten raw or cooked, also used to makes preserves, jams, chutneys, relishes, and pickles. Their mild taste makes them ideal for fruit salads and smoothies. The fruits are also dried, powdered and consumed.

Cluster fig tree wood is soft and porous, and hence is used for construction of small implements, packing cases, and cheap furniture. They are also used as fuel.

Various parts of the cluster fig tree, including the bark, leaves, and fruits, have been used to treat a wide range of ailments. They are used as effective remedies for tonsilitis, diarrhea, dysentery, digestive problems, asthma, cough, diabetes, liver problems, and skin diseases.

In addition to its medicinal and culinary uses, Cluster fig tree is an important cultural symbol in many parts of the world. The tree is considered sacred in Hinduism and is often associated with Lord Vishnu, one of the major deities. In some cultures, the tree is believed to have spiritual and mystical properties and is used in religious ceremonies and rituals.

Propagation is through seeds, grafting, or layering.