Mention the word ‘fig’ and this image springs to mind:

Our neighbours have such a fig tree in their garden that sometimes bends with the weight of delicious edible fruit. A succession of families living there over the years have ignored their plump ripeness, leaving them for the Speckled Mousebirds, Cape White-eyes, Redwinged Starlings and Blackeyed Bulbuls to devour!

The enormous Natal fig tree in our garden produces an abundance of tiny fruits that are inedible for humans, yet are a magnet for an enormous variety of birds. This African Green Pigeon among them:

So, when is a fig not a fig? When it belongs to the ice plant or Mesembryanthemacae family. There is such a variety of these plants indigenous to South Africa that they probably deserve a fat guide book all to themselves. Whatever their actual scientific designation, they are commonly known here as mesembs or vygies (little figs). Let me show you why:

Once these beautifully silky flowers have fruited, the fruiting capsules bear a strong resemblance to a little fig (vygie):

24 thoughts on “WHEN A FIG IS NOT A FIG

  1. Well done for capturing the pigeon! It certainly blends in well. I’ve grown what are called mesembryanthemums here in the UK. I don’t know if it’s the same plant, though. The flower of yours looks similar, but I’ve not seen yellow ones for sale in UK garden centres. They do have similar succulent- type leaves. They are grown as annuals here as they can’t survive the winter.


    • There is a host of different succulents that fall under the general banner of mesembryanthemums. These ones were growing wild in the Addo Elephant National Park. I have pink, purple and white ones that more or less grow wild in my garden They wouldn’t do well in your cold winters for they do best in the sun.


  2. Pingback: WHEN A FIG IS NOT A FIG — Something Over Tea – ° BLOG ° Gabriele Romano

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