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  • Common Figs: Ive seen Self-pollinating, hermaphroditic, and they fruit without pollen

    I got into a discussion this morning about Common figs with someone. The conversation was about whether or not they were self pollinating. I dont have a ton of experience so most of my information comes from research and reading. We all know there is a lot of information out there on the internet and not all of that information is true... sooo...

    Ive seen a bunch of resources that say common figs are hermaphroditic so they have both male and female flowers inside them. Because of this they are then self-pollinating which is why they are able to flower and fruit without the fig wasp. If this was the case the question begs to be asked, why do they then not produce viable seeds?

    Now in my search to answer that question I came across RaysFigs.com which weighed in on the topic with:
    Q. Can you cross-pollinate figs? If they're both self-fertile?
    A. Nope. No, repeat NO, figs are self-fertile. Common figs bear fruit without pollenization. Their fruit never has viable seeds unless it has been caprified. In fact, figs do not even produce pollen. Yet, they are capable of being pollenized by caprifig pollen. (Caprifigs are the other form of Ficus carica).

    Which does also make sense in my mind because it then answers the question at least about why the seeds are not viable. So which is it? What is going on here?
    2022: The year of figs and a new love of Citrus thanks to madisoncitrusnursery.com

  • #2
    Lou,

    It isn't even that the seeds are not viable there are in fact no seeds at all, the crunchy bits inside the common figs are just empty husks.
    Cutting sales will start Tuesday Nov 1 at 9:00 eastern

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    • #3

      Common figs form because the plant seems programmed to make the synconium (the 'fig', not a true fruit from the biologic standpoint but practically we call it a fruit) whether or not it is pollinated. Common figs do NOT have male flowers, only female. They can be pollinated, and will make fertile seeds normally if pollinated by wasps with viable pollen from caprifigs (or people using tools to transfer pollen) . There are reports that occasional fertile seeds form even without fertilization, but that is most likely not from pollination, but some process in the seed itself (can't recall the biologic term for that - maybe parthenocarpic?).

      ONLY CAPRIFIGS NORMALLY HAVE MALE FLOWERS (and female ones) and can produce pollen. There are reports that common figs can produce male flowers with some hormonal applications.

      So common figs are really NOT self-fertile (which refers to viable seed production), but are able to produce fruit themselves without pollen unlike most other 'fruits'.

      Smyrna figs - the synconium ('fig') drops without pollination. They also only have female flowers.

      San Pedro figs - the synconium stays on without pollination like common figs for the breba crop but falls off without pollination like the Smyrna figs.
      Ed
      SW PA zone 6a

      Comment


      • Fygmalion
        Fygmalion commented
        Editing a comment
        So for us east coasters without benefit of either caprifigs or wasps, we would have to obtain caprifigs with pollen almost mature for pollination from a source and then try and manually pollinate our existing stock if we want to try our hand at creating viable seed from different cultivar crosses. I assume that caprifigs are as different in genes they carry as our common figs of different varieties are.. so the devil in the details as far as breeding for new cultivar crosses is finding the right needle in the right haystack... Is that an accurate statement?

      • LouNeo
        LouNeo commented
        Editing a comment
        Tony, I am going to try breeding at some point just for fun but while we would need to get pollen or a fig that we can extract pollen from and then insert into another fig the trick is the 100s or 1000s of seeds that will result and have to be grown out to fruit to even know what the traits of those new figs might be lol.

    • #4
      I appreciate the responses. Im just trying to understand the processes and theres a lot of info out there that doesnt really seem to line up.

      Thank you both.
      Last edited by LouNeo; 12-21-2016, 03:39 PM.
      2022: The year of figs and a new love of Citrus thanks to madisoncitrusnursery.com

      Comment


      • #5
        Ed is completely correct but the term parthenocarpic means producing fruit without fertilized ovaries. The fruit has no viable seeds.
        Bob C.
        Kansas City, MO Z6

        Comment


        • Harborseal
          Harborseal commented
          Editing a comment
          That is, unless parthenogenesis occurs, where a gamete (usually an ovum) develops into a single cell with a full complement of chromosomes which is then capable of becoming an adult organism.

        • eboone
          eboone commented
          Editing a comment
          That is the term I was trying to recall-thanks Bob

        • Harborseal
          Harborseal commented
          Editing a comment
          I realized that right after I hit the post button, lol.

      • #6
        http://cropsfordrylands.com/wp-conte...Edible-Fig.pdf
        Horticultural Categories of Fig Types
        Cultivars of Ficus carica are classified into four categories or "types" based on sex and the need to be pollinated or "caprified" in order to set a crop. They are;

        1. Caprifig - type: Has male and female flowers enclosed in the synconiom and is generally considered the “male” fig. All caprifigs are placed in this class without regard to whether the synconia persist or not.

        2. Smyrna - type: Has only female flowers and needs cross-pollination by Caprifigs in order to develop normally. This crop sets virtually no breba crop.

        3. San Pedro - type: Has only female flowers. Its breba crop needs no pollination to produce fruit like the common fig. Its second crop is commonly dependent on pollination.

        4. Common - type: The flowers are all female and need no pollination to produce fruit (parthenocarpic fruit set). Some cultivars in this class set no breba crop, some set a moderate crop and some set a good breba crop.
        Figs are not "Self Fertile"... Only the Caprifig-type produce pollen have male and female flowers with only a few varieties that are edible / persistent. Smyrna-type have only female flowers and requires pollination for fruit set. The breba crop of San Pedro-type, breba and main crop of Common-type are parthenocarpic, set fruit without pollination and only have female flowers.

        Fig seeds are usually only viable with the presence of fig wasps and or pollination / caprification.
        Last edited by AscPete; 12-25-2016, 10:43 AM. Reason: added quote from PDF document...
        Pete R - Hudson Valley, NY - zone 5b

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        • #7
          "Sporophyte." Commons and others alike don't use pollen to fertilize. They split their dna up into specialized cells, which re merge and combine to reproduce. It basically clones itself using it's own DNA. What this means is all seeds should be female and an almost complete genetic replica of the sporophyte mother. It doesn't have pollen or male parts. It side steps all the wasp/pollen stuff, and fertilizes itself on the genetic level.
          Attached Files

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          • Richard
            Richard commented
            Editing a comment
            By definition, Ficus carica only bears pollen in the spring crop of caprifigs. This is its main distinction from Ficus palmata. However, it is true that the Common figs have male buds in their summer (in fact all) syconia -- but they are just placeholders incapable of maturing.

        • #8
          Originally posted by plantsonlocke View Post
          "Sporophyte." Commons and others alike don't use pollen to fertilize.
          This does not pertain to figs. Common figs are not pollinated AND their seeds are not fertile and not female. The figs develop without fertile seeds.
          Ed
          SW PA zone 6a

          Comment


          • #9
            Originally posted by LouNeo View Post
            What is going on here?
            Figs are not fruits, they are syconia.

            There are many sexual variations in Ficus carica fig trees, falling in these categories:
            1. Fruitless (no syconia)
            2. Bearing pistils in Spring crop (caprifig)
            2a. male-sterile, infertile pistils, non-persistent, requiring pollination of main crop
            2b. fertile pistils, non-persistent, requiring pollination of main crop
            2c. infertile pistils, persistent, main (summer) crop ripens without pollination
            2d. fertile pistils, persistent, main (summer) crop ripens without pollination
            3. Do not bear pistils in Spring crop
            3a. no Spring crop, non-persistent, requiring pollination of main crop (Smyrna)
            3b. has Spring crop, non-persistent, requiring pollination of main crop (San Pedro)
            3c. has Spring crop, persistent, main (summer) crop ripens without pollination, bears infertile seeds (empty seed shells) (Common)
            3d. female-sterile, has Spring crop, persistent, main (summer) crop ripens without pollination, seedless (seedless Common)
            Fruit crazed in Vista CA. http://tangentvectors.org

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            • #10
              I've been wondering about this, I recently bought a couple meteorito cuttings off of figbid. I want to taste that fig so bad I figured I could hand fertilize it somehow. So does the caprifig that does the fertilizing influence the taste of the fig.

              Comment


              • arachyd
                arachyd commented
                Editing a comment
                Caprification, no matter by which variety, improves the size, color and flavor intensity of the fig only. The seeds of the caprified fig will be affected and resulting trees will have traits of both parent varieties.

            • #11
              figwood1 According to this study, caprifig source does affect fig quality:

              https://www.researchgate.net/publica...haracteristics
              FigLife: www.figlife.com
              www.youtube.com/figlifedotcom
              Sacramento, CA - zone 9b

              Comment


              • figwood1
                figwood1 commented
                Editing a comment
                That was very interesting!! Seems like the only I'll affect of fertilization could be the fungus or possibly splitting. It still really didn't say if each separate kind of caprifig would change the flavor of its host female beyond the intensity of it's own attributes. I guess what I was wondering if one that tastes like berry will remain that flavor no matter what caprifig fertilizes it. Is it like normal fruit where only they offspring will pick up any of the fathers traits. It's such an awesomely strange fruit. Thanks for that article it was very interesting!!

            • #12
              Originally posted by eboone View Post

              This does not pertain to figs. Common figs are not pollinated AND their seeds are not fertile and not female. The figs develop without fertile seeds.
              It absolutely relates to Ficus Carica! Here ya go! Read and become informed.

              Comment


              • eboone
                eboone commented
                Editing a comment
                I was commenting on your misinformation in post #7 And I am quite informed.

                "They split their dna up into specialized cells, which re merge and combine to reproduce. It basically clones itself using it's own DNA. What this means is all seeds should be female and an almost complete genetic replica of the sporophyte mother. It doesn't have pollen or male parts. It side steps all the wasp/pollen stuff, and fertilizes itself on the genetic level."

                Common figs that have not been pollinated do NOT normally form fertile seeds. They have not split their DNA into specialized cells, the seeds inside an unpollinated common fig are generally hollow without genetic material. They have not 'fertilized themselves' nor do they produce self clones. Not saying that it could not happen, there are unusual things that occur, but the figs that are grown as common figs by fig growers commercially and by us collectors for consumption do n

              • ginamcd
                ginamcd commented
                Editing a comment
                eboone as I'm sure you saw in the other thread started by plantsonlocke some members have confirmed the presence of the wasp in the area in CA where the figs in the videos posted below were grown. That would explain the viable seeds.

            • #13
              Common is a blanket term. There is Female, hermaphroditic females, parthenogeneic females (and possibly males), males, and "bisexual males."

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              • #14
                Originally posted by plantsonlocke View Post

                It absolutely relates to Ficus Carica! Here ya go! Read and become informed.

                https://www2.palomar.edu/users/warmstrong/pljun99b.htm
                https://youtu.be/nX0CmqBC2c8 https://youtu.be/EnBx9S79J0s


                Here ya go my man!

                Comment


                • acerpictum
                  acerpictum commented
                  Editing a comment
                  Julian I agree with you. In areas where the wasp can, in theory, be present and pollinate the figs of Smyrna, this is most likely the case. Apomixis is too rare and unpredictable way of reproduction of figs in natural conditions.. However, the likelihood is not zero.
                  In our region, the distribution of the wasp is strongly limited by the uniqueness of the conditions of a small part of the Black Sea coast - between the sea and the mountains above 1 kilometer. Where the mountains are lower, the wasp no longer lives because of the frequent breakthroughs of cold air from the north. Under such conditions, the probability of wasp pollination is much lower than the probability of apomictic fruiting.

                • Julian
                  Julian commented
                  Editing a comment
                  acerpictum, that's fair. That does introduce the possibility, however unlikely, that if a fig bearing viable seeds were discovered in San Francisco, it might be the result of apomixis. oat, I think the threshold of indisputable proof that the wasp has visited and successfully pollinated a fig here is now just a little higher.

                • oat
                  oat commented
                  Editing a comment
                  Julian what do you want? A dead wasps caught in my hands? 😀

              • #15
                For some unknown reason, late season figs have many seeds that will sink in water. The idea that only fertile seeds will sink is dogma, fertile seeds do sink, but so will seeds that are full of syrup, or water, or for some other unknown reason.

                ​​​​​​Quite sus to do an experiment after forming a conclusion.

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                • #16
                  Originally posted by polecat View Post
                  For some unknown reason, late season figs have many seeds that will sink in water. The idea that only fertile seeds will sink is dogma, fertile seeds do sink, but so will seeds that are full of syrup, or water, or for some other unknown reason.

                  ​​​​​​Quite sus to do an experiment after forming a conclusion.
                  Suspect or ignorant? I caution you to use your terminology carefully with me. I may be full of all kinds of ignorant but the fact that you want to take it to suspicious already puts a bad taste in my mouth as far as my opinion towards you. like I said and if you were paying attention I'm going to follow up on all this so if I'm wrong I'm wrong and you're all going to see it. why would I even bring up the fact that maybe 50 or 25% of the sunken seeds would only germinate? Let's not try to stop me before I figure things out. Thanks for your input I completely agree, stay tuned.

                  Comment


                  • #17
                    Julian... We will have to see. Either way, it just makes it that much better if there is wasps in the area and it happens to be self fertilizing.

                    Comment


                    • Julian
                      Julian commented
                      Editing a comment
                      "Self-fertilizing" is a misnomer with figs. Parthenocarpic figs don't fertilize themselves - they form fruits without fertilization at all. Caprifigs, which have both male and female flowers, can be self-fertile, but because the flowers are housed inside syconia (the fig "fruit"), they generally don't develop without the wasp to perform the fertilization.

                      I've got no pony in any fig race - except for Harvey's sale - but I'm a bit concerned when people are loose with terminology. This forum is here for us to share and learn from each other, and I figured I'd try to clear things up a little. I think your seeds will germinate - but I also think it's because they were caprified. Is it possible that some of the viable seeds are polyembryonic or are parthenogenetic? Sure, but it's highly unlikely, and you won't be able to know without genetic testing.

                    • oat
                      oat commented
                      Editing a comment
                      I just saw this post. I agree with Julian and eboone here. Common figs ripened are not fertilized at all. You are essentially eating flowers.
                      Your figs are likely caprified, even the later ones. You live in San Joaquin Valley, which is where the fig wasps were first introduced into the US. I’m sure that there are a lot of seedlings in the area and that they are highly diverse. It’s a good thing.
                      You get to experiment more and find some good tasty and hopefully common seedlings.

                  • #18
                    Ok. I'm out. Everything will be documented and available on YouTube or on figdatabase.

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