Prota 7(1): Timbers/Bois d’œuvre 1
Ann. Mus. Congo, Bot., sér. 6, 1: 30, t. 15 (1904).
Ficus zenkeri Mildbr. & Burret (1911), Ficus bongouanouensis A.Chev. (1917).
Origin and geographic distribution
Ficus variifolia is distributed from Guinea to Uganda, Tanzania and Cabinda (Angola).
The wood is locally used for carving. It is also considered suitable for joinery, light carpentry, ship and boat building, agricultural implements, toys and novelties, boxes and crates, matches, plywood, hardboard and particle board. In Tanzania the tree is commonly used for shade and grave marks. In DR Congo the inner bark is made into reddish barkcloth. In hunting rituals the charcoal of the wood is rubbed into incisions made on the body.
The heartwood is whitish yellow or pale yellowish brown, sometimes slightly pinkish; it is not clearly demarcated from the sapwood. The grain is straight, texture coarse and even. Latex is present in the wood. The wood is lightweight and soft. At 12% moisture content, the density is about 400 kg/m³, modulus of rupture 61 N/mm², modulus of elasticity 5900 N/mm², compression parallel to grain 34 N/mm², cleavage 10 N/mm and Chalais-Meudon hardness 1.2.
The wood saws easily and rapidly. It planes well, but finish is not first-class. It may split on nailing, but it peels, slices and glues well, producing good plywood. The wood is not durable; it is susceptible to attack by fungi and marine borers, and moderately resistant to attack by termites and pinhole borers. The heartwood is permeable to moderately resistant to impregnation by preservatives, the sapwood is permeable.
In the leaves, flavonol O-glycosides, flavone C-glycosides and, in a few specimens, flavone-O-glycosides have been identified.
Medium-sized to fairly large tree up to 35 m tall; bole straight, branchless for up to 27 m, up to 60 cm in diameter, buttressed; bark smooth, with white latex. Leaves arranged spirally, but almost distichous, simple; stipules c. 0.5 cm long, caducous; petiole 1–5 cm long, hairy; blade oblong to elliptical or ovate, 5–20 cm × 2–11.5 cm, base cordate to rounded, apex acute to acuminate, margin entire, but irregularly lobed to divided in juvenile plants, pinnately veined with (5–)7–14 pairs of lateral veins. Inflorescence a fig, the flowers enclosed within, figs solitary or in pairs in the leaf axils, globose to ovoid, 1–2 cm in diameter, minutely hairy, yellow at maturity; peduncle up to 1 cm long. Flowers unisexual, sessile, with 2–3-lobed perianth; male flowers with 1 stamen; female flowers with 1-celled ovary and short or long style. Fruit an oblong-ellipsoid achene c. 1 mm long, 1-seeded, developing within the fig.
In Gabon Ficus variifolia is pollinated by the wasp Dolichoris flabellata.
Ficus comprises about 750 species, with about 100 species in Africa, 500 species in tropical Asia and Australia and 150 species in tropical America.
Ficus variifolia occurs in humid evergreen forest and periodically inundated forest, but also in drier forest and as a pioneer in cleared sites, from sea-level in West Africa to 1300 m altitude in East Africa.
Logs must be processed immediately after felling or be treated with preservatives.
Genetic resources and breeding
In view of its wide distribution and wide range of habitats, Ficus variifolia seems not to be threatened by genetic erosion.
The wood of Ficus variifolia is a useful source of wood for local applications, but presently of little commercial value because of its poor durability. It may offer prospects for plywood production on a more commercial basis.
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Correct citation of this article:
Brink, M., 2008. Ficus variifolia Warb. In: Louppe, D., Oteng-Amoako, A.A. & Brink, M. (Editors). Prota 7(1): Timbers/Bois d’œuvre 1. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.