University of California

Fig varieties: a monograph


Ira J. Condit

Author Affiliations

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

Publication Information

Hilgardia 23(11):323-538. DOI:10.3733/hilg.v23n11p323. February 1955.

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The common fig occurs in a great number of varieties, which have evolved mainly as natural seedlings during the many centuries in which this fruit has been under cultivation. As early as the fourth century B.C., (Theophrastus (1916))4 reported that most good fruits, including the fig, had received names. Ulysses, the hero of the Odyssey, obtained from his father twenty fig trees, all with names. In the first century of the Christian Era, (Pliny (1855)) listed twenty-nine varieties, with the localities in which they were grown, and quoted Cato, who also had given names to several varieties. Pliny further stated: “Since his [Cato’s] day there have been so many names and kinds come up, that even on taking this subject into consideration, it must be apparent to everyone how great are the changes which have taken place in civilized life.”

Various authorities maintain that certain figs now being grown in Italy are directly descended by asexual propagation from the clonal varieties listed by Pliny, and are therefore identical with them. Barnissotte, for example, is referred by Gallesio to “Fico Africano” of Roman times. The Mission (Franciscana) fig of California, which was introduced into the New World over four hundred years ago by the Spanish explorers, had undoubtedly been previously propagated in southern Spain for many centuries.

Pliny listed names of figs and gave the color of mature fruits, but did not describe varieties in detail. Porta, in his Pomarium of 1583 and his subsequent much larger work of 1592, did little more than list varieties of that period, but he gave citations to previous authorities on synonymy. Beginning with Aldrovandi in 1668, and more specifically with Cupani in 1696, the accounts were sufficiently detailed to enable later writers to compare characters and to identify varieties with more or less certainty. Subsequent accounts or descriptions of fig varieties are numerous, as shown in the appended bibliography. Many have been purposely omitted from this monograph because

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