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by Lesley Randall, posted by Deb Shaw

In preparation for the upcoming BAGSC Exhibition, Ficus at San Diego Botanic Garden, here is a bit of information about this extraordinary group of plants.

We’ll start with the one most of us know best: the edible fig. Ficus carica, has been in cultivation since ancient times. Though humans typically eat only this species of Fig, others are considered to be keystone species in their habitats, providing food (leaves as well as figs) and shelter for a wide variety of mammals, birds and insects. Several species are plants of special significance in many cultures. For example, Ficus religiosa, the Bo Tree, is said to be the tree under which Buddha sat while gaining enlightenment.

Some figs are cauliflorous, a botanical term for plants which have flowers and fruits growing directly from their main stems or woody trunks rather than from new growth. The word comes from Latin. Caulis means trunk or stem and Flory means flower. Photo by Lesley Randall, © 2017.

Some figs are cauliflorous, a botanical term for plants which have flowers and fruits growing directly from their main stems or woody trunks rather than from new growth. The word comes from Latin. Caulis means trunk or stem and Flory means flower. Photo by Lesley Randall, © 2017.

The genus Ficus is a member of the Moraceae, or Mulberry Family. There are more than 800 species of Ficus. Most are tropical, but there are some species that survive in more temperate zones, such as the edible fig. The genus is highly diverse, with species growing as epiphytes, massive banyans, stranglers, shrubs, caudiciforms, vines and small trees. They are found from rainforests to dry rocky deserts.

 

So what makes a Ficus a Ficus?

Ficus auriculatus cut to reveal the interior and white latex. Photo by Lesley Randall, © 2017.

Ficus auriculatus cut to reveal the interior and white latex. Photo by Lesley Randall, © 2017.

There are a couple of key characteristics that separate this group. First is the unusual flower/fruit arrangement—the fig itself. Known as a syconium in botanical lingo, the fig is an urn-shaped structure lined with tiny flowers on the inside. The flowers are pollinated by a specialized group of wasps that enter the syconium through an opening called an ostiole.

The second key characteristic are the paired stipules that enclose the developing leaf. Though these often drop off as the leaf begins to unfold, they leave a distinct scar at the base of the leaf. The stipules may be separate, or fused into one structure.

The third key characteristic is the sap: a striking white or yellow latex.

Other characteristics to note are: an alternate leaf arrangement, and typically, pinnate venation. All figs share these characteristics that, combined, distinguish them from other plant genera. How these characters are expressed are what makes the group so interesting. The syconium can be as large as a baseball or less than a centimeter wide. It may be scaled or smooth, sessile or stalked and borne in leaf axils or on the main branches and trunk (cauliflorous.) The leaves are typically entire, but several species have lobed leaves. Leaves may be thick and tough, light and delicate, very large or very small. The bark can be smooth, rough, or in the case of a couple Australian species, corky and fire retardant.

Ficus with stipules and scars. Photo by Lesley Randall, © 2017.

Ficus with stipules and scars. Photo by Lesley Randall, © 2017.

Where to find Ficus in Southern California?
The Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden, San Diego Zoo, and San Diego Botanic Garden all have nice collections. The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens have some as well. They also can be found in parks, lining city streets, in back yards, as house plants, in nurseries and as Bonsai specimens.

Want to learn more? Check out Fig Web which has information on specific species as well as general information on the group. BAGSC members who are interested in organizing and/or attending expeditions to find and paint specimens should let us know your interest and stay tuned!

Information about the Ficus exhibition at the San Diego Botanic Garden can be found on BAGSC’s website. Information about the “Call for Entries” can be found on the “Members Only” page of the BAGSC website.

Ficus religiosa, the Bo Tree, with reddish new growth. Photo by Lesley Randall, © 2017.

Ficus religiosa, the Bo Tree, with reddish new growth. Photo by Lesley Randall, © 2017.

by Lesley Randall/Leslie Walker, posted by Deb Shaw

Asclepias speciosa, Lesley Randall, pen and ink on illustration board, © 2014.

Asclepias speciosa, Lesley Randall, pen and ink on illustration board, © 2014.

BAGSC member Lesley Randal will be teaching a two-day workshop on Pen and Ink for Botanical Illustration at the San Diego Botanic Garden:

Saturday & Sunday, August 9  and 10, 9:30 am – 4:00 pm
San Diego Botanic Garden
Ecke Building

230 Quail Gardens Drive, Encinitas, California 92024

Pen and ink is an elegant art form and the traditional method used in botanical illustration. This class will cover the different techniques used to convey shading, the importance of using different line weights and choosing the appropriate paper.

The class will focus on the legume family with a short lecture of the diagnostic characters given by instructor Lesley Randall. Students are not required to draw a plant from this family, however. Students must provide their own plant specimen to draw, with flower, fruit or seed pod if possible. Students are encouraged to have some pencil sketches completed of their subject to bring to the class. This will allow maximum time for working in pen and ink. All levels of experience are welcome.

Coffee, tea and water will be provided, but please bring your lunch. A materials list will be provided upon registration. There is ample parking at the SDBG, but of course, we always encourage carpooling.

The class is presented by San Diego Botanic Garden and the Botanical Artists Guild of Southern California. Registration is on a first come, first served basis, maximum class size is 20 people. Please register online (the online registration will be available starting June 9) at the garden’s website, or mail checks “Payable to San Diego Botanic Garden” to:
Sam Beukema
San Diego Botanic Garden
PO Box 230005
Encinitas, California 92023

Cost: SDBG and BAGSC members $200, non-members $220. A materials list will be sent upon registration.

Questions? Email Lesley Randall.

Lesley began her career in Davis California where she prepared illustrations for scientific publications. Her work has appeared in numerous journals as well as a few floras, including the Jepson Manual and An Illustrated Flora of Yosemite National Park. In recent years she has exhibited her work in international juried botanical art shows in the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom. While she works primarily in pen and ink, Lesley also enjoys working in color pencil and graphite. In addition to botanical art, Lesley makes leather masks and mosaics out of glass. She is currently employed at San Diego Botanic Garden as curator of plant collections where she finds many different plants to draw.

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