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  • Day94

    Strangler Fig

    January 13, 2020 in Australia ⋅ ☁️ 25 °C

    We first came across these on Fraser Island, but met some lovely specimens in the rainforest.

    Strangler fig - named for their pattern of growth upon host trees, which often results in the host’s death. Although a strangler fig often smothers and outcompetes its host, there is some evidence that trees encased in strangler figs are more likely to survive tropical cyclones, suggesting that the relationship can be somewhat mutualistic. The plants are fully photosynthetic and do not rely on their hosts for nutrition.

    Beginning life as a sticky seed left on a high tree branch by an animal such as a bird, bat, or monkey, the young strangler lives as an epiphyte on the tree’s surface. As it grows, long roots develop and descend along the trunk of the host tree, eventually reaching the ground and entering the soil. Several roots usually do this, and they become grafted together, enclosing their host’s trunk in a strangling latticework, ultimately creating a nearly complete sheath around the trunk. The host tree’s canopy becomes shaded by the thick fig foliage, its trunk constricted by the surrounding root sheath, and its own root system forced to compete with that of the strangling fig. This process can kill the host. If it does not, the host tree, being much older than the strangler, still dies eventually and rots away and a magnificent fig "tree" is left behind whose apparent "trunk" is actually a gigantic cylinder of roots.

    The result is, that once the original tree has rotted away, what is left is a latticework of “roots” creating the trunk of the new tree.

    Well I found it fascinating.
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