FIG (AS. fic, OFr. figue, five, from Lat. flees. fig). A name given to a large group of plant, very diverse in habits of growth and in products useful to man. The fig of commerce, known botanically as Fires cancel, is a dioecious plant, 15 to 30 feet high, with rough, deep-lobed leaves, belonging to the Artocarpefe or breadfruit fam ily. This plant, so far as known, is a native of Asia from Syria to Caucasus and Kurdistan. Like the date, it. is an inhabitant of tropical and subtropical countries, and because it often bears three crops of edible fruit in a season, it was one of the chief reliances of the peoples inhabiting its native country previous to the time when cereal grains were introduced into general cul tivation. Besides being edible in a fresh state the fig can be canned, preserved, or dried. in which conditions it is sold as a commercial article. Its chief importance, however, is as a dried fruit, thousands of tons being annually consumed in the United States and England alone. Found wild in the earliest inhabited coun tries, the fig has accompanied man in all his wan• derings wherever a suitable climate has per mitted its introduction. It was common in Greece during the time of Plato; was early car ried into Italy, and thence to Spain and Gaul. It. was introduced into England prior to 1257, and has since maintained a more or h•ss preen Hon, existence as a standard in the south of England to this day. it is most successful when trained on walls and given winter protection. In such situations it bears well, and is remunerative where there is a suitable market for the fresh product. As a greenhouse plant the fig is coin mim everywhere outside the range of successful outdoor culture.
In the United Stales, the fig has long been in cultivation in the Gulf States, and even as far north as North Carolina, while in Cali fornia it finds its most congenial conditions: it is here In that the elosing years of the nineteenth century witnessed the successful establishment of eau rilien ion, as a result of which the production of Smyrna figs in California may be accepted as an established enterprise. Caprifi•ation is the name given to the operation commonly' practiced by the natives of fig-growing emintries. It con sists in the tying of branehes of the wild fig, or caprilig, in the tops of the cultivated trees. The caprifig, MIMh is found wild in southern Eu rope, northern Africa, SIMI western Asia, now cultivated in California, is the only tig bearing staminate flowers. It is, therefore, absolutely necessary that this variety be planted near cul tivated sorts from which mature seeds are de sired. Because of the peculiar structure of the fig fruit, the flowers being borne, as it were, on the inside of the receptaele, the process of pol lination cannot be accomplished either by the wind or by ordinary insects. A peculiar hy menopterous insect, called Blastophaga, is an in habitant of these wild figs in their native coun try and also visits the cultivated varieties; it is to them alone that the pollination of the cul tivated sorts is due. Smyrna fig culture would be an impossibility without this insect. Until this fact was known all attempts at cultivating this fig outside of Smyrna were failures. Now,
however, these figs can be quite as successfully grown in California as in the native country. As the Smyrna fig produces only pistillate flowers, without pollination, the fruits attain only par tial development, no seeds are formed, and the delicate flavor which con-tilutps the ellief of the Smyrna fritils eannot be Besides the eaprilig I lrico.t eurieo, var. . lltr, Iris) and the Smyrna fig (L'ieux coricu, ta•. there arc numerous other sorts more or less commonly grown, which attain perfection without the aid of pollen of the vaprifig. The e are roughly grouped under the name common edible figs, and known botanically as Ficus earica, van borfra4s. They be two crops annually, the early figs. or •brebas; and the late or 'suninftr Another peculiar group known a, the San Vedro figs (Ficus writs, var. r no (Bo), some of which are grown in California and in Florida and other Southern States., mature only one crop of fruit, the •lirebas'; the second crop always falling before reaching matur ity. This is explained by the fact that the first fruits contain only so-ealled gall or mule flowers, like the common edible fig, while the fruits of the second crop contain only pistillate flowers, like those of the true Smyrna fig, and. as there is no pollen to fertilize them, they The fig is easily propagated either by budding, grafting, cuttings, or layers. In general, however, euttings serve the purpose hest. They are best made from the ripened wood of the previous sea son's growth. if the cuttings be made in December or January, in California, the young plants will be ready for the orchard a year later. As the fig is not a hardy plant, its cultivation as a standard is limited. On the Atlantic seaboard it is confined to States south of Virginia, and in the \Vest to Califor nia, where the most extensive orchards of America exist. The tree is long lived, comes into bearing early, and consequently requires a free space in which to ripen its fruit ; it is, therefore. frequently planted as an avenue or bor der tree. In the orchard it should he given forty feet each way; and if grown with other plants these must be re . moved before crowding occurs.
All the dried figs grown in America are produced in California ; outside this region the copious rains have a detrimental effect upon the fruits, rendering them unfit for the purpose. The dried-fig output of California is steadily in creasing. In 18'86 the total output was estimated at 100,000 pounds. In the five years coding with 1S99 it was 14,945.000 pounds, or an average of nearly 3,000,000 pounds annually. In a fresh state for table use the fig can be transported only a short distance. Fig-culture in greenhouses for furnishing fresh table fruits, outside of the areas where the fig thrives in the open, will doubtless long continue.
For a discussion of varieties suited for these various purposes, consult : Bailey, Cyclopedia of American Horticulture (New York, 1900) ; "The Fig," California Board of Hort ical t are (Sacra mento, 1890) ; "The Fig," United States Depart ment of Agriculture, Dirision Pomology, Bulle tin 9 (Washington, 19011.