I am doing a number of workshops
and demonstrations this year using the Tigerbark fig, Ficus microcarpa, variety
Tigerbark. I am writing this article
since there is not much in writing about this tree and in order
to acquaint my audience with this wonderful bonsai material.
The Tigerbark fig is a selected clone
of Ficus microcarpa. It is so called because of the whitish spots
and stripes arranged on the underlying green to light green-brown
stripes and spots on light green-brown bark. Notice the color
is more visible on the wet lower root. The dry bark of the rest
of the tree looks almost uniformly grey.
Gray bark of "normal"
Ficus microcarpa. When wet it has some white spots and short white
bark of a different "regular" Ficus microcarpa. White
spots are more visible on the wet lower brownish bark. Again,
dry bark looks uniformly grey.
The background bark color of all
Chinese Banyan's varies considerably from clone to clone. The whitish spots on
the bark of the Tigerbark are more numerous and prominent, thus
giving rise to the common name of Tigerbark fig.
On a visit to Taiwan I saw the original plant called Tigerbark. The tree is a superb specimen of spectacular design. It is said to have been discovered there some 35-40 years ago and is also called Kingman or Kin Men. It is important to realize that the bark pattern, leaf size and texture of all types of Ficus microcarpa is very variable. Trees derived from seed show all sorts of leaf and bark variations and thus may show all sorts of varying Tigerbark character. I have seen several different figs called Tigerbark and they show different bark background color, degree of white spots and lines, flexibility of branches and many variations in leaf size, shape and texture.
I have been
working with two plants that I acquired some years ago labeled
as Tigerbark as well as newer Tigerbarks acquired from Jim Smith
. Jims Smith's trees have a light grey-green bark color with
whitish spots and lines and are identical with the original Taiwan
Tigerbark. My first Tigerbark figs do not resemble the original
Taiwan Tigerbark and have a dark brown bark with white spots
and lines. I no longer consider them as true Tigerbarks.
Two difficulties arise in determining the bark color on figs. One, it is quite common for the trunk of a fig to acquire a patina of moss or mold. This will usually darken the bark color. Before making a decision on your tree's true bark color, use a toothbrush to buff the trunk and see if the color is altered by mold, algae or dirt. If so, it can be cleaned with a toothbrush, if desired. Two,
bark color on
many figs will seem uniformly grey but after a good wetting the
bark's true color and any spots or stripes will be more apparent.
Characteristics of the Tigerbark fig
In all respects
the Tigerbark behaves pretty much as the regular Chinese Banyan.
Tigerbark may be a stronger grower than the normal Chinese Banyan
and like the normal Chinse Banyan, forms aerial roots with relative
Soil, watering and care for the Tigerbark
are the same as for all Ficus species. Make sure that the soil
is moist and never allowed to be sopping wet for long and give
them as much light as possible.
Scale is the only common pest problem
and this can be handled with dormant oil sprays.
I hope you enjoy your adventure with
the Tigerbark fig, and I am looking forward to working with you
on your Tigerbark fig.
For more general information on figs check: www.bonsaihunk.8m.com/cultural.html