University of California

Fig characteristics useful in the identification of varieties


Ira J. Condit

Author Affiliations

Ira J. Condit was Associate Professor of Subtropical Horticulture and Associate Subtropical Horticulturist in the Experiment Station.

Publication Information

Hilgardia 14(1):1-69. DOI:10.3733/hilg.v14n01p001. May 1941.

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Culture of the fig, Ficus Carica L., began many centuries ago somewhere in Eurasia. Primitive man recognized the delectable qualities of the fruit, selected seedling trees bearing superior kinds, and thus established definite fig clones or varieties. Egyptian hieroglyphics and other pictographs give us some idea of the high regard in which the fig was held, but the Greeks have given us what is probably the earliest written indication of fig taxonomy. In the Odyssey, Ulysses says to his father: “Through these very trees we were going and thou didst tell me the names of each of them. Pear trees thirteen thou gavest me, and ten apple trees, and figs two score” (Homerus, 1909).4 In the third century b.c., varieties of fruits were not only named but studied. (Theophrastus (1916)) says: “Most of the wild kinds [plants] have no names and few know about them, while most of the cultivated kinds have received names and they are more commonly observed; I mean such plants as vine, fig, pomegranate, apple, pear, bay, myrtle, and so forth; for, as many people make use of them, they are led also to study the differences.”

During the centuries in which the fig has been cultivated, varieties have so greatly multiplied that the present number is not even approximately known. In the first century of the present era, Pliny (Plinius Secundus, 1855-90) listed 29 varieties of figs, and (Columella (1745)) mentioned 8 varieties under locality names.

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Condit I. 1941. Fig characteristics useful in the identification of varieties. Hilgardia 14(1):1-69. DOI:10.3733/hilg.v14n01p001
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