Guide to plants of northern and east-central Mali

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[fig trees, generally with latex, leaves alternate, “fruit” is actually a syconium, i.e. a structure containing seeds and flowers in a single mass; tiny wasps enter the syconium and do the pollinating]

web resource:

subgenera, sections, subsections:



Platyphyllae (abutilifolia, glumosa, platyphylla, trichopoda)

Caulocarpae (polita)

Chlamydodorae (thonningii)

Urostigma (cordata, ingens)



Pedunculatae (dicranostyla)



Sycomorus (sur, sycomorus)
(hardest set to distinguish is F. glumosa, F. dicranostyla, F. ingens)

may be epiphytic (strangle other trees): thonningii, platyphylla

may have aerial roots: trichopoda, sycomorus, thonningii, platyphylla, polita

diameter of branch

more than 0.5 cm: abutilifolia, platyphylla, ingens

0.3-0.7 cm: ingens, thonningii, trichopoda, sycomorus

less than 0.5 cm: dicranostyla, glumosa, polita, cordata, sur

key by leaf

margin undulating or dentate esp in upper part: sur, sycomorus

acuminate tip: polita (glabrous both sides), s.t. dicranostyla (pubescent-scabrous both sides)

broad leaves (widely oval to near circular)

12-25 cm x 10-15 cm platyphylla (often pubescent)

12-25 cm x 10-12 cm trichopoda

8-15 cm x 8-15 cm abutilifolia

6-10 cm x 4-7 cm sycomorus (slightly dentate, coarse)


10-15 cm x 5-10 cm polita (glossy, long acuminate point)

4-16 cm x 3-9 cm ingens (glossy top, coriaceous, oval-triangular)

8-15 cm x 5-7 cm dicranostyla (acuminate point)

8-15 cm x 4-8 cm sur (undulating margins at leat near top, may be glabrous)

3-14 cm x 2-8 cm glumosa (glossy above, short rounded point at tip)

6-12 cm x 3-6 cm cordata (glossy, many lateral nerves)


10-15 cm x 4-7 cm thonningii (glabrous)
key by fig size

3-5 cm sur (green then reddish, bunched in short racemes 50 cm long on trunk and branches, usually glabrous, peduncle 0.5-2 cm)

3-5 cm sycomorus (green then yellowish or reddish, in branchlet in leaf axils (sub-)puberulous, peduncle 0.3-0.6 cm)

3-4 cm polita (on old branches or on trunk, peduncle 1-1.5 cm)

2 cm cm dicranostyla (whitish, pear-shaped, isolated or by twos at base of petioles)

1.5 cm trichopoda (reddish, in pairs at base of petiole)

1.2-1.6 cm abutilifolia (short peduncles off base of petioles on upper branch)

1-1.3 cm glumosa (pink, paired at base of petioles, peduncle 0.5-0.7 cm)

1-1.2 cm ingens (white/yellowish/burgundy, by 2 at base of petioles, peduncle 0.3-0.6 cm)

0.8-1.5 cm thonningii form dekdekena

1 cm platyphylla (peduncle 1-3 cm)

0.6-0.8 cm cordata (white, by 1-2 at base of petiole, or bunched on leafless branch)

0.6-0.8 cm thonningii form iteophylla

Ficus abutilifolia 50446

records: Bandiagara, Koulikoro (Boudet); Hombori, Beni, Pergue, Anda, Kikara, Segue (JH)

habitat: rocks, inselbergs

notes: tree 8-12 m, may ramify from base; cordiform leaf 8-15 cm x 8-15 cm, small figs 1.2-1.6 cm long, on short peduncles 10.8-1.2 cm off base of petioles on upper part of young branches

native terms: often forms a taxon (broad-leaved figs) with F. platyphylla, the two being distinguished by modifiers

ethnobotany: logs hollowed out by Jamsay for wooden troughs (also beaten like drums during wrestling tournaments)

Ficus capensis (see F. sur)

Ficus congensis (see F. trichopoda)

Ficus cordata subsp. lecardii 50436

records: Sanga, Koulikoro (Boudet); Hombori, Tabi mountain, Dianwely, Kikara, Wakara, Segue (JH)

habitat: inselbergs

notes: tree to 10-15 m; glabrous glossy leaf oval 6-12 cm x 3-6 cm, short acuminate tip, 8-12 pairs of nerves, generally not opposite (cf. Pterocarpus spp.), linked together by festoons at edge of leaf, petiole 2-5 cm; spherical figs 0.6-0.8 cm wide by 2 or isolated at base of petioles or in a dense bunch on a young leafless branch; does not resemble other local Ficus spp.

Ficus dekdekena (see F. thonningii)

Ficus dicranostyla var. dicranostyla 50437

records: Sanga, Koulikoro (Boudet); Kikara/Walo (now very few left on inselberg summit), a few at Pergue and Anda (JH)

habitat: dry rocky zones

notes: tree 10-20 m; young pubescent branches show scars from fallen stipules under base of petioles; leaf oval or elliptical 8-15 cm x 5-7 cm, pubescent on both sides, fairly long acuminate tip,; petiole 1.5-3 cm; pear-shaped fruit (i.e. globular with flattened top) 2 cm x 2 cm, isolated or by twos at base of petioles; peduncle of fruit 0.5-1 cm long with 3 bracts applied on the base of the fruit

Ficus glumosa 50438 [similar to F. ingens]

records: Bamako, Sanga (Boudet); Gouna and Diangassagou in Tomo Kan speaking area (JH; earlier report from northern Dogon country are now assigned to F. ingens [Anda] or to F. dicranostyla [Walo])

habitat: rocky areas

notes: tree 12-15 m, short trunk 2-3 m high, may reach 2 m thick; trunk smooth, becoming scaly on old trees, yellow-grey to brown; branch 0.2-0.5 cm diam, grey to light brown; large oval leaf 3-14 cm x 2-8 cm, short rounded point at tip, base lightly cordate, 5-7 lateral nerves, coriacious, topside glossy dark green, underside has soft pubescence, petiole 1.5-4 cm; spherical figs 1-1.3 cm wide on old branches, pink at maturity, solitary or by pairs at base of petiole, peduncle 0.5-0.7 cm


Ficus gnaphalocarpa (see F. syncomorus subsp. gnaphalocarpa)

Ficus ingens var. ingens 50439 [similar to F. glumosa]

records: Segou, Bamako (Boudet); many in a depression on inselberg summit near Walo; also recorded near Anda village (JH)

notes: tree 10-15 m with short trunk and dense top, in the open can spread laterally to 15 m; scaly grey-brown bark; new leaves (March-April) reddish; grey-brown branches about 0.6 cm diam; leaf coriaceous, glabrous, oval-triangular (i.e. base flattish) 4-16 cm x 3-9 cm, tip in obtuse corner; 6-8 lateral nerves, topside glossy, bottom with many secondary nerves, petiole 0.5-4 cm; spherical figs 1-1.2 cm by 2 at base of petioles [photos show white, yellow, or burgundy color], peduncle 0.1-0.6 cm

Ficus iteophylla (see F. thonningii)

Ficus lecardii (see F. cordata subsp. lecardii)

Ficus platyphylla 50437

records: Mopti, lac Debo (Boudet); in nature seen strangling balanzan (Faidherbia albida) at Dianwely Kessel (JH), also planted in large towns (Djenne, Douentza) and many villages

habitat: (in nature) in moist savanna and forests (JH)

notes: independent or epiphytic (strangling), 15-25 m; may have aerial roots; very large leaf, widely oval 15-25 cm x 10-15 cm with conspicuous yellowish nerves, soft pubescence on both sides but top may become glabrous, thick pubescent petiole 4-8 cm; spherical yellow figs 1 cm wide on peduncle 1-3 cm

Ficus polita subsp. polita

records: Iton (Boudet); none (JH)

notes: tree 10-15 m, generally low-branching; glossy leaf broadly oval cordiform 10-15 cm x 5-10 cm, long acuminate point, long petiole 3-10 cm; globular figs 3-4 cm wide, isolated or fasciculate by 2-3 or more, on old branches or on trunk, peduncle 1-1.5 cm

Ficus rokko (see F. thonningii)

Ficus sur 50443 (syn F. capensis, thus in Berhaut)

records: Bamako and south (Boudet); Kikara (inselberg summit), Adia, Gouna, Tanga, scattered distribution but species known to many Dogon (JH)

habitat: savanna woodland with lateritic soil, s.t. riversides (Boudet); locally on inselbergs and on rocky plateaus (JH)

notes: tree 4-6 m, leaf scabrous, oval 8-15 x 4-8 cm, usually with undulating dentations in upper third; base of leaf trinervate, lowest pair of lateral nerves rise to mid-height of leaf, 4-5 other lateral nerves; petiole 1.5-3 cm or more; figs globular 2.5-4 cm bunched in short racemes on woody spurs that appear on trunk and large branches, occasionally isolated, green then reddish when ripe

Ficus sycomorus subsp. gnaphalocarpa 50444

records: Sanga, Gao, southern Mali (Boudet); planted in some villages and towns in Dogon country (Dianwely Kessel, Ouami east of Hombori, Niangago (JH)

habitat (in nature): riverbanks

notes: tree 10-20 m, bark greyish; small leaf oval to suborbicular (nearly circular) 6-10 cm x 4-7 cm, lateral nerves pointed distinctly upward, leaf coarse, petiole 2-5 cm with rust-colored pubescence; scars on stems; spherical figs 3-4 cm, tomentose

Ficus thonningii 50441 (includes former F. dekdekena and F. iteophylla)

[=F. rokko in Figweb; syn F. petersii (may be reinstated)]

records: Bamako, Bandiagara, Niono (Boudet); Diangassagou (JH).

habitat: wooded savanna, riverbanks

accepted “forms” are (F. thonningii forma...) dekdekena/iteophylla/rokko (< African Flowering Plant Database)

notes: tree 8-10 m, short cylindrical trunk becoming channeled with age, low-branching, can be epiphytic (strangling), very often throws off aerial roots from trunk and branches; smooth light-grey to brown bark; white latex abundant; leaf glabrous with some pubescence on nerves underneath, obovate-elliptical 10-15 cm x 4-7 cm, 4-11 secondary nerves, many reticulations between lateral nerves, petiole 2-5 cm with fine groove; small spherical figs 0.6-0.9 cm, sessile or with short peduncle to 1 cm, by pairs usually at leaf axis or under young leaves, yellow or red

[form dekdekena, ex Berhaut F. dekdekena] usually epiphytic, topside of leaves glossy, figs 0.8-1.5 cm

Ficus trichopoda 50442 (syn F. congensis, thus in Berhaut)

records: southern Mali (Boudet); planted in some northern Dogon villages (Tabi, Adia, Niangabo), not seen in nature (JH)

habitat: riverbanks, also planted

notes: tree 5-25 m in forest galeries; short thick trunk to 2 m diam; can throw down thick aerial roots; leaf oval cordiform 12-25 cm x 10-12 cm, widest in lower third, veins yellow to whitish, 9-11 lateral nerves, bottom two opposite but others mostly not; globular figs 1-2 cm diam, red (or red and yellow) at maturity, by pairs or fours at base of leaves, peduncles 0.5-1.2 cm

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