A fig feast is taking place along the east coast of Australia from now until July. Flying-foxes and birds such as figbirds and bowerbirds are enjoying their fill.
A feast for flying-foxes
The Port Jackson or Rusty Fig (Ficus rubiginosa) provides abundant fruit which are eaten by flying-foxes and birds such as fig birds, bowerbirds, currawongs and native pigeons.
The fruits, 10 to 20 mm in diameter, change colour from green to yellow, then red as they mature. Ripe fruit is most abundant from January to July. The flying-foxes must have been visiting this tree each night, selecting the ripe fruit to eat because there are no red fruits left.
This fig species occurs along the coastal zone from far northern Queensland to the south coast of NSW. It is also found on the northern tablelands of NSW.
In fertile soils it can grow to a height of 10 metres and its spreading canopy provides good shade. If a seed falls on a cliff or rocky soil, these tough plants are able to put down roots into cracks and absorb moisture and nutrients.
Fig seeds are tiny and are easily swallowed by flying-foxes. The seeds pass through their digestive system and may be carried many kilometres before being excreted.
This efficient method of spreading offspring far and wide, can present a problem for humans who live in houses. Check your roof each year to ensure that a fig is not starting to grow there! On the other hand, people learning the craft of bonsai often start with a fig such as this one as it is tough and not easy to kill.