Jenny Burman Jenny Burman
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What's stranger than an Indian Laurel fig?

laurel.jpgSometimes plants are stranger than fiction. The following was posted Tuesday night on an Echo-Elysisan neighborhood list serv by Michael O'Brien, a city planner and neighborhood presence who keeps area residents updated on botanical happenings in EP.

At 601 East Edgeware, on the northwest corner of East Edgeware and Bellevue, you will see a tall Canary Island Date Palm. Up in the canopy, you will see something green with branches. That's a Ficus microcarpa, the Indian Laurel Fig. Yes, that street tree in front of the Walgreens is growing in the palm tree. How did it get there? Well, a little bird ate the fig, then pooped it out in the crown of the palm, where it sprouted. This is how figs usually grow in nature--they start from a seed up in a tree, and then the fig sends down aerial roots, which slowly surround and kill out the parent tree. Thus, "strangler fig." There is no danger of this happening here, because the climate is too dry. As it happens, each fig tree is pollinated by its own individual wasp species, and the wasp that pollinates Indian Laurel Fig first showed up in L.A. about 15 years ago. The first seedling identified was in--yes, IN--the wall of the Music Center downtown. Indian Laurel Figs still sprout IN the Music Center from time to time.
Curiouser and curiouser--the wasp finds a fig, then enters through a tiny hole in the tip, and it deposits its eggs inside the fig, while at the same time fertilizing the flowers. Yes, the tiny little fig flowers are INSIDE a fig. The new little wasps have to be fast in developing, since there are even tinier little worms inside the fig that prey on the baby wasps, and they have to leave the fig before they get munched. No, the figs that you eat do not have all that going on--they are parthenogenetic--that is, they can develop without being fertilized.

Fig trees that grow inside the walls of the Music Center. Now there's a specialized existence.

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