Ficus salicifolia / nerifolia

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KIRKY
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Ficus salicifolia / nerifolia

Post by KIRKY »

As it’s ficus season, I have been looking into my ficus. My questions are salicifolia and nerifolia the same spieces?
I have a couple of each, I think I see a difference in the leaf the salicifolia seems to have a much finer/thinner longer leaf. Where as the nerifolia seems slightly broader. Or I could just be imagining a difference. Can anyone growing the two confirm, or are they just miss labeled?
According to Wikipedia they are different?? Happy for any insight on these.
Also does anyone have any ficus natalensis or Ficus burtt-davyi nanna cuttings they’d like to sell?
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Re: Ficus salicifolia / nerifolia

Post by dansai »

I can't give any definitive answers without a lot more research, but it would appear that in Bonsai circles, particularly American online articles, they appear to be the same, yet the description of F. salicifolia on wiki and other sources seems to describe a fig with different leaves but with the common name of Willow Leaf Fig. I have a few unlabelled plants that I would have attributed to "Willow Leaf Fig" that most closely resemble the description of F. nerifolia. A problem with the nursery industry is that plants aren't always labelled correctly due to varying reasons and common names can be very misleading. As F. salicifolia has a distribution through Africa and F. nerifolia through Asia they would not be the same species.

I have one plant I got as a bonsai started that looks like a root cutting, something that "Willow Leaf Figs" seem to do well. My guess is it is a form of F. nerifolia. I also have some larger plants that were sold as potted figs that have the same leaf shape ,but much longer, and have different bark, which is a brown colour with white lenticels like a "Tiger Bark Fig". Positively IDing figs can be fraught as there seems to be a fair amount of variability in certain characteristics. Fruit seems to be the most reliable but is rarely present on pot grown trees. Most plants grown for pot, or bonsai, culture would be cuttings from a few select varieties that may, or may not, have characteristics similar, or the same as, how the species is officially described.

This link has some good pictures of F. salicifolia leaves from Africa where it is a common Fig.

This one from a US garden shop has a photo of a fig with long skinny leaves and a common name of "Willow Leaf Fig" and labelled F. salicifolia

All resources I found on F. nerifolia had the thin leaves like here
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Re: Ficus salicifolia / nerifolia

Post by KIRKY »

Thanks Dansai for your research, :reading: I have a few that look like this one
https://www.wigertsbonsai.com/product/f ... sai-7-pot/ lots of very fine leaves.
And then a couple that look like your link above (All resources I found on F. nerifolia had the thin leaves)
None of them look like your first link Salicifolia Vahl
Still not sure if they are two different species or as you say, same species with differing variability and characteristics Seems it might be easier to just label them as Willow leaf fig but I like to call a spade a spade and a shovel a shovel. Overall I don’t suppose it really matters, still it would be nice to know.
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Re: Ficus salicifolia / nerifolia

Post by dansai »

The link you posted say Ficus salicaria which seems to be a synonym. This link suggests there is even dispute over its identity, but does include a picture of a bonsai that looks like F. nerifolia. Maybe this is where the misapplied name comes from.

Some interesting botany;
  • Salici- translates to willow and -folia to leaf, so saricifolia = willow leaf
  • -aria translates to having a connection with or pertaining to, so salicaria = willow like
  • neri- refers to the genus Nerium, the oleander, so neriifolia = oleander- shaped leaf
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Re: Ficus salicifolia / nerifolia

Post by KIRKY »

Well to my eye that settles it, as one lot are definitely willow like. And the other more like mini oleander.
So I’ll label them as such :tu: many thanks dansai
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Re: Ficus salicifolia / nerifolia

Post by KIRKY »

If anyone is interested, finally found the answer to which tree is which.

Ficus nerifolia has scientifically been published and re-named as Ficus salicaria by C. C. Berg in Brittonia, 2004. "A new species of Ficus (Moraceae) of uncertain provenance", Brittonia 56 (1) : 54-57. This is an official naming and as such is the only legitimate name in the scientific community (at least until it is re-named in the future to something else!)

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Re: Ficus salicifolia / nerifolia

Post by terryb »

KIRKY wrote: March 31st, 2022, 10:47 am Ficus nerifolia has scientifically been published and re-named as Ficus salicaria by C. C. Berg in Brittonia, 2004. "A new species of Ficus (Moraceae) of uncertain provenance", Brittonia 56 (1) : 54-57. This is an official naming and as such is the only legitimate name in the scientific community (at least until it is re-named in the future to something else!)
Hi Kirky,

The publication you indicate has no mention of F. neriifolia nor did the author compare the plant they named F. salicaria to it, so one has not been renamed to the other.

"Plants of the world online" https://powo.science.kew.org/ has F. neriifolia as a synonym of Ficus salicifolia. So:
  1. F. salicaria and F. salicifolia are valid names but different to each other and
  2. Anything that was F. neriifolia should be called F. salicifolia
.
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Re: Ficus salicifolia / nerifolia

Post by dansai »

It is also worth noting that plants sold/labeled as willow leaf fig are probably all grown from cuttings or root cuttings (one of a few figs that do grow readily from root cuttings). Therefore they are more akin to a cultivar than an actually species. It would be like describing "Little Ruby" as a new species as it has morphological differences to other Ficus rubiginosa. Although there would be 1000's if not 10's of thousands of "Little Ruby" plants out there, they would not constitute a species as there would be no stability in propagated material from seed to maintain those characteristics.
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