Home

32Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: 33so likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. 34Verily I say unto you, this generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled. 35Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.

Understanding the Fig Tree

Cultivated figs grow on small trees with three-lobed, deciduous leaves. What is here called a fruit is actually a “multiple fruit,” which is an entire inflorescence of flowers. The vase-shaped multiple fruit of a fig is sometimes called a syconium. The syconium evolved from a primitive form that looked like a flat plate crowded with small flowers. Through evolution the plate arched upward into a ball. Therefore, the flowers are located on the inside, and there is a small hole at the top that is hidden by some scales, but is important as the entrance for the pollinator.

The story of the Smyrna fig must include the story of the Capri fig. Briefly stated, for fruit development to occur, the Smyrna fig needs pollen from the Capri fig.

Fig pollen is transferred from male flowers to female flowers by an insect called a fig wasp. Entomologists have learned that fig wasps overwinter as larvae in the pistils of the fruit from the winter crop of Capri figs. Capri fig produces three crops of figs per year, and the winter one is called the mamme crop. In April, the larva changes into an adult. A male emerges from the pistil and promptly impregnates a female, while she is still in her pistil. Soon after the wingless male dies; most male carcasses remain in the syconium. Meanwhile, the winged, gravid females emerge and leave the fig through the ostiole. Eventually a female flies to a new, young, flowering Capri fig of the spring crop and enters through the ostiole. The female oviposits eggs in some of the pistils, one per ovary, and then carries pollen to the other pistils for seed set. This enables the fruit to mature, and her young therefore to receive nourishment. The female dies within the developing fruit. After a short period, the new generation of fig wasps emerges; males impregnate females and die while gravid females escape to colonize new flowering figs. However, the profichi Capri fig has many male flowers near the ostiole, and the wasp thereby carries much pollen with her to the next syconium.  

Nematode worms use the female wasp as a Trojan horse to infect the fig wasp. They prey upon the wasps, riding them from the ripe fig of the wasp’s birth to the fig flower of its death, where they kill the wasp, and their offspring await the birth of the next generation of wasps as the fig ripens to repeat the process.