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):