|Traditional Food Plants of Kenya (National Museum of Kenya, 1999, 288 p.)|
syn: F. mucosa sensu Dale & Greenway 1961
Borana: oda, woda, od Chonyi: mukuyu Embu: mukuyu, nguyu English: sycamore fig Ilchamus: lnaboli Kamba: mukuyu Kikuyu: mukuyu, nguyu (fruit) Kipsigis: mogoiwet Luhya (Bukusu): kumukhuyu kamakhuyu (fruit) Luhya (Tachoni): omukhuyu amakhuyu (fruit) Luo: olam, odok (Ugenya) Maa: orng'aboli Malakote: mokoyo Marakwet: mokung'ua, mokongwo (singular), makany (plural) Mbeere: mukuyu Meru: mukuyu, mukuu, nguyu (fruit) Nandi: sebetwet Orma: odha Pokot: mokong'wo Rendille: bubunto, ilmo (fruit) Samburu: lng'aboli Sanya: odha Somali: bardah (Tana River), berde Swahili: mkuyu Taita: muku Teso: eborborei, eduro Tugen: lokoitwo, lokoiwo, lokoek (fruit) Turkana: echoke
Description: A large tree to 20 m with an upright branching habit and a dense or open rounded or occasionally spreading crown. BARK: Trunk and branches yellow, orange-red or yellow-green. Bark surface powdery. LEAVES: Rough. FRUITS: Figs to 2 cm across, slightly hairy, borne on small leafless branches.
Ecology: From Egypt and the Middle East to South Africa and Namibia and the Comoro Islands. Widely distributed all over Kenya in riverine vegetation, flood plains and places with a high groundwater-table. In the wetter zones it can be found away from riverine vegetation. Alluvial, sandy or rocky soils, 0-1,850 m. Rainfall: 250 mm (riverine)-l,200 mm or more. Zones II-VII.
Uses: FOOD: Figs fleshy, sweet and eaten raw. Figs are split open, dried and stored, usually in honey (Pokot, Turkana). Dry figs may also be ground into flour which may be stored or mixed with grain flour and used to prepare atap, a type of thick porridge (Turkana). Figs cooked and eaten (Tugen). Figs are only very rarely eaten nowadays; they may occasionally be infested with insects.
MEDICINAL: Sap used for toothache (Kikuyu) and powdered bark infusion for dysentery (Kamba).
OTHER: Beehives (Kamba, Pokot, Turkana). Stools (Kamba). Door frames. Pestles and mortars (Maasai, Kipsigis, Kamba). Bow of a lyre (Turkana, Pokot). Hanging beehives (Pokot). Doors, house building (Kipsigis, Maasai (Narok)). Water troughs, alio, serving bowls, tuwan and perta, and movable doors, tikichon (Pokot, Turkana). Inner parts of bark beaten or chewed into fibre for weaving (Taita). Trunks used in Buganda for making the canoe-like troughs in which beer is made. Good shade tree, hence used as a meeting place. Figs also eaten by birds. Leaves cut for animal fodder (Pokot, Turkana). Latex applied to arrow shafts (Pokot, Kamba).
CULTURAL/BELIEFS: A sacred tree among many communities (Boran, Kamba, Kikuyu, Mbeere, Tharaka, Meru, Luo).
Season: Fruits in January-March in Tana River, Marsabit and southern Turkana and in April in Machakos, Makueni, Narok and Taita.
Remarks: Most fig species have edible fruits. They were important famine foods in the past but their use has declined a great deal, especially in the agricultural areas. A closely related species is F. sur Forssk. (syn. F. capensis Thunb.) (English: Cape fig, Somali: berde, Luo: bongu) with greyish bark and figs that are borne in clusters on special branched stalks arising directly from the trunk. It is found in West Pokot, Makueni and most parts of Kenya south to KwaZulu Natal in South Africa, in riverine conditions but also away from such habitats. Local names as for F. sycomorus.
Another important fig is F. vallis-choudae Del. (Maa: mutoyo, Pokot: nohow'o, Luo: ng'owo), a huge tree to 25 m high with a low crown, large heart-shaped to almost circular leaves, and large finely hairy, solitary figs to 5 cm in diameter. This tree is usually riverine.