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  • Marseilles Black vs

    Been a little while since I posted a "Fig of the Day", life has kept me busy! As before, please share any comments and experience you may have with Marseilles Black VS. Also feel free to load info you have on the Variety Info page.

    Marseilles Black vs is popular Mt Etna type, known for its productivity and vigor. I have seen multiple variations on the name, usually shortened, including: MBvs, MvsB, BMvs, and so forth. I personally like MBvs. If I have any of the history wrong, please correct me, I've tried to piece it together from years of posts on f4f and GW into one cohesive story.

    This tree has been grown since 1943 in Columbia, MD, where it was brought back from France during WW2 by a soldier. In 2002 Warren Turner acquired cuttings from 3 trees being grown by the daughter of the WW2 veteran, some of which were shared with herman2 (aka VS). They were initially labeled MD1943Brunswick, MD1943Celeste, and MD1943BT. Time has revealed that the MD1943Celeste is what we now refer to as Marseilles Black VS, further trial has shown the MD1943BT (initially circulated as Maryland Brown Turkey) is also Marseilles Black VS. The confusion arose from the curious habit of MBvs having figs with long or short stems/necks depending on the microclimate. After 5 years of trialing side by side herman2 has concluded they are indeed the same. The ultimate ID was made using notes by University of Maryland researchers Monroe and Starned and by Robert Hog in England. According to herman2 this plant matches their notes to the latter. There doesn't seem to be anyone growing a known Marseilles Black side by side with MBvs, so the suffix "vs" is valuable to keep.

    It is my understanding that Marseilles Black was trialed in the early 1900's by University of Maryland and LSU for potential commercial production. Despite being the most productive variety in the trial, the fruits were deemed too small for commercial production. I do not know believe there is any relation between these trials and the plants currently circulating, however there has been speculation that some Brown Turkey plants in the South are actually Marseilles Black from the old LSU trials. There is also Maryland Berry from Encanto that I think is the same as MBvs before herman2 made ID, but I'm not positive, please chime in if you know.

    It is an exceptionally hardy variety, having survived (dieback extent unknown) temperatures of -8F unprotected in Columbia, MD and possibly lower. It has gone unscathed through 0F weather in NJ for herman2. It may be hardy to Zone 5 in ground. Like other Mt Etna types, it will still fruit even if killed to the ground. Flavor is very good, ranked a 10/10 in hot, dry weather but still pulling an 8/10 if cool. Some brebas may set if protected or container grown, but not many. Early ripening (75 days), fruits generally ripen early to mid-August (mid-Atlantic) thru mid-September. Produces prodigious amounts of small figs, hundreds to thousands. This productivity has led Robert Harper to call it a 'Feed A Nation' variety that everyone should grow.

    Personally, I found this variety difficult to root because nearly every cutting vigorously leafed out before even considering roots. I had been waiting to write this variety up until I finally rooted one, which I think I can safely say I have. It will be in my in ground trial either this year or next to compare with other Mt Etna types (Sal's, HC, Takoma Violet, etc) to find the best of the best for my area.

    On a semi related note, does anyone talk with herman2 who can invite him here? His experience would be a great addition to this forum.
    Last edited by Kelby; 04-08-2015, 08:58 AM.
    https://www.figbid.com/Listing/Browse?Seller=Kelby
    SE PA
    Zone 6

  • #2
    I have this in ground as of last spring here in the deep south. This winter, all the top growth has been killed back
    to the ground. The only protection is 2-4 inches of pine straw. We shall see if it survived in the next few weeks.

    As for Herman, I have sent him two invitations to give us a try with no response. One was via the PM on F4F and
    the other was his personal email.
    newnandawg 7b Newnan, GA

    Comment


    • Kelby
      Kelby commented
      Editing a comment
      Thanks Mike. I haven't seen him posting on f4f either, hopefully he is well.

  • #3
    Thanks for note on rooting difficulties. I just bought some cuttings from Kerry (driveway farmer) and I'm trying two different rooting methods (coir and direct to ProMix HP). It will be interesting to see which method works better.

    Thanks for the info, I'm looking forward to seeing how they do here in Eastern MA.
    Kevin (Eastern MA - Zone 5b/6a)

    Comment


    • #4
      MBvs was my first variety in my foray into growing figs last year. For me, it has rooted fairly easily. Last year I started my cuttings off in a bin with perlite, this year I direct potted them; both methods worked. My 2 young plants grew vigorously and tried to push some figs in late summer, I pinched those off regretfully. I air-layered a sucker off one of them, and harvested some cuttings that I've rooted off the other, so I guess they are already producing I hope to be able to let some fruit set this year!
      Jesse in western Maine, zone 4/5
      Wishlist- Figues Juane, Demos unk, Nantes Maroc, Thermalito

      Comment


      • Kelby
        Kelby commented
        Editing a comment
        Well Jesse, from your pictures you are a better rooter than I! I'm still working out the kinks in my rooting system, of which there are plenty.

    • #5
      MBVS is one of the first trees I planted in the ground in 2010 (as a 2 year old tree) when I moved from Houston to the Austin area. For those growing in the ground in the south... MULCH HEAVILY. This is one of a couple of trees I have which seem not to tolerate the tremendous summer heat (Aldo/Palermo Red/etc. is worse). Despite good growth during Spring and Fall, it never seems to be large enough for it's age. Perhaps this is the year.

      It is a very good variety. I have a handful of varieties in Texas that I would like to propagate and bring to Colorado, but have not been able to time correctly. MBVS is near the top of that list. Last year, my brother and his family ate from my trees. I have them a map of the orchard, asked questions, etc., but never was able to pinpoint the comments to the specific varieties. They all raved about the figs from one tree (even my niece who claims not to like figs). With the information I did get, I think that was MBVS.
      Last edited by Bijan; 04-07-2015, 02:01 PM.
      Littleton, CO (zone 5b) - In Containers
      N.E. of Austin, TX (zone 8b)- In Ground.

      Comment


      • #6
        MBVS has been a slow rooter for me, but all three of my cuttings eventually rooted. Once the roots establish, it seems to be a vigorous grower. I've got mottled leaves on two cuttings (FMV?), but they seem to grow despite whatever is ailing them. One of the cuttings looks like it's set to be taller than the other varieties I rooted, even though it started growing a lot later.
        Johnny
        Stuff I grow: Google Doc

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        • #7
          I don't recall my MBVS being difficult to root. I have mine in-ground and it's a workhorse. Last year it was very productive. Consistently delicious fruit. Smaller figs, but big flavor. A keeper for me.
          Frank ~ zone 7a VA

          Comment


          • newnandawg
            newnandawg commented
            Editing a comment
            Frank, you are a good bit north of me, do you have any problems with total top die back or do you protect yours?

          • F. Bennett
            F. Bennett commented
            Editing a comment
            I don't protect any of my trees. This one is going on its 3rd year. It died back last year, which I attributed to being young. This year, I had pruned the trunks down to 18" so I really didn't give it a chance. In the next few weeks, it should start waking up. I don't know if it will start from the trunks or the ground though. I'll be sure to update though.

        • #8
          Which one is best to keep (I am sure this question probably has been asked):
          MBVS, St. Rita, HC, Sal's EL, Takoma Violet, or Gino's ?
          USDA z 10a, SoCal. WL: De la Roca, Lampeira Prush, Raspberry Tart, Boysenberry Blush

          Comment


          • jkuo
            jkuo commented
            Editing a comment
            When in doubt, isn't the answer "all of the above"?

          • greenfig
            greenfig commented
            Editing a comment
            It's like having 6 very similar figs. If I have 1 or 2, I can pay more attention to them

        • #9
          Originally posted by greenfig View Post
          Which one is best to keep (I am sure this question probably has been asked):
          MBVS, St. Rita, HC, Sal's EL, Takoma Violet, or Gino's ?
          Gino's and MBVS are too different in my opinion. If my Gino's was as productive as MBVS, I'd pick Gino's between the two if I had to ditch one. Gino's is larger and just as desirable. Thankfully, I can keep both!
          I haven't tried the others you mentioned, for the record.
          Frank ~ zone 7a VA

          Comment


          • #10
            I was debating between a MBVS and a Takoma V. My Gino last year was OK but not as good as some other figs. I was thinking Takoma because of high reviews, I have not tried it yet.
            Since they are all quite similar, I do not think I need all of them.
            How does a St. Rita stands in that bunch? I have not tried that either
            USDA z 10a, SoCal. WL: De la Roca, Lampeira Prush, Raspberry Tart, Boysenberry Blush

            Comment


            • #11
              I am trying to root MBvs now... it is lagging way behind most of my other starts, no leaves or roots. I started them in cups in humidity chamber with bottom heat in early March.
              Phil
              Zone 7A - Newark, DE; Zone 8A - Wilmington, NC;

              Comment


              • #12
                I did not realize St. Rita was considered a Mt.Etna type fig. I know it's from Italy, but in the Apennines. Of course that does not mean that's where it originally grew.
                SoCal, zone 10.
                www.ourfigs.com Invite your friends.

                Comment


                • greenfig
                  greenfig commented
                  Editing a comment
                  The leaves look like a Mt Etna fig, I can fully compare them all mentioned this summer if the squirrels allow me to

                • Kelby
                  Kelby commented
                  Editing a comment
                  There's been a lot of discussion about Mt Etna types not all being from Italy/Mt Etna. I favor the theory they were all the same variety with mutations along the way as it was spread and propagated throughout the Mediterranean.

              • #13
                Originally posted by Kelby View Post
                .... Time has revealed that the Celeste is what we now refer to as Marseilles Black VS...... further trial has shown the BT (initially circulated as Maryland Brown Turkey) is also Marseilles Black VS. The confusion arose from the curious habit of MBvs having figs with long or short stems/necks depending on the microclimate. After 5 years of trialing side by side herman2 has concluded they are indeed the same. The ultimate ID was made using notes by University of Maryland researchers Monroe and Starned and by Robert Hog in England. According to herman2 this plant matches their notes to the latter. There doesn't seem to be anyone growing a known Marseilles Black side by side with MBvs, so the suffix "vs" is valuable to keep.
                Please forgive the confusion but are you saying that my Celeste (a forth generation tree from early 1900's) is the same as Marseilles Black VS?

                Darkman AKA Charles in Pensacola South of I-10 zone 8b/9a

                Comment


                • Kelby
                  Kelby commented
                  Editing a comment
                  No, that is a little confusing, sorry! They collected cuttings from 3 trees which were labeled as MD1943Brunswick, MD1943Celeste, and MD1943BT as per the elderly lady's comments. The MD1943Celeste is now known as MBvs. I'll clarify that.

                • Darkman
                  Darkman commented
                  Editing a comment
                  Thanks for clarifying.

              • #14
                Last season I got to taste MBvs for the first time, my 2nd yr tree held on to about a dozen or so figs. It certainly was not impressive at a young age. It is still within the patience window though, so it is getting up potted because of it's reputation and we'll see how it does this year. I can say that it is one of the last to come out of dormancy again, just like last year, VdB and MBvs breaking bud 2-3 weeks later than the rest.
                Calvin, Wish list is to finish working on the new house, someday.
                Bored? Grab a rake, paint roller, or a cordless drill and come over!

                Comment


                • #15
                  Finally got two of these to root for me this year, thanks to some generous forum members. Looking forward to getting this regional variety in ground here.

                  Comment


                  • #16
                    An eight inch limb of Marseilles Black that barely had time to lignify in fall survived this harsh winter via a little mulch, as did other cultivars. With brushed on wood chips and pinned down by a small rock, this limb came through some very harsh conditions unscathed except for the tip bud, and returned to near vertical orientation upon being unweighted.
                    Could've done it a week ago but today brushed aside the leaves covering low running limbs of Hardy Chicago, Ronde de Bordeaux, Natalina (Mt Etna), and Salem Dark,
                    Tony WV 6b
                    https://mountainfigs.net/

                    Comment


                    • #17
                      [QUOTE=greenfig;n14064]I was debating between a MBVS and a Takoma V. <SNIP>
                      Since they are all quite similar, I do not think I need all of them.
                      How does a St. Rita stands in that bunch? I have not tried that either[/QUOTE

                      St Rita is much better than HC and my HC is very good. Mike from Edible Landscaping feels HC and Sal's are interchangeable. Of your list, St Rita and HC are the only ones I've had. I wouldn't call St Rita's a Mt Etna fig, either.

                      There is no way anyone outside wasp territory can tell you what figs are going to taste like for you. The wasp may make 2 very different figs here taste similar there. We'll never know until you tell us.
                      Last edited by Harborseal; 04-15-2015, 11:51 AM.
                      Bob C. KC, MO Zone 6a. Wanted: Martineca Rimada, Galicia Negra, Fioroni Ruvo, De La Reina - Pons, Tauro, BFF, Sefrawi, Sbayi, Mavra Sika , Fillaciano Bianco, Corynth, Souadi, Acciano Purple, LSU Tiger, LSU Red, Cajun Gold, BB-10 any great tasting fig

                      Comment


                      • #18
                        Interesting.
                        We should compare our Ritas when the time comes. I have not seen many posts about it (also, this one is about MBVS).
                        USDA z 10a, SoCal. WL: De la Roca, Lampeira Prush, Raspberry Tart, Boysenberry Blush

                        Comment


                        • Kelby
                          Kelby commented
                          Editing a comment
                          Yeah, start your own thread on St Rita!

                      • #19
                        I had never tried grafting figs before this year. Out of the four varieties I tried on my VdB, with my inexperienced hand, MBVS was the only one that took. I cleft grafted it. I had read somewhere that it is often difficult to root so I was hedging my bets with the limited scion wood.
                        Coastal SoCal/ USDA Zone 10b / Sunset 22 / AHS Heat zone 2

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