Ficus subcordata

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Rooting system

Local names:
Filipino (balete), Indonesian (wunut), Thai (sai)

Strangling deciduous tree, without aerial roots, up to 30 m tall and 70 cm in diameter; branching starts 2 m above the ground and twigs are brownish-grey; in shallow soil the lateral roots near the soil surface can spread 4-7 m away from the base of the trunk.  Bark whitish-grey, slightly smooth and fissured, flexible and durable, 10-17 mm thick; inner bark whitish, exuding white sap.  The blunted spearhead-like bud extends from the node while the leaf is still intact. 

Leaves alternate, oblong, ovate-oblong, or elliptical, 9-20 cm x 4-10 cm, with a prominent light green midrib and a light green petiole of 2-5 cm length; leaf margin entire; leaf-blade broadly cuneate or rounded at base, pointed at apex, smooth to hairy, purple when young, light green beneath and dark green above when mature.

Fruit a short-ellipsoid fig, 3-5 cm x 2-2.5 cm, solitary, occasionally in pairs, green when young, gradually turning from yellow to reddish-brown or black when ripe.

Seeds small, hard and numerous.

F. subcordata is subdivided into two varieties by Corner: var. subcordata, the typical variety; and var. malayana Corner, with large subcylindrical figs 3.5-5 cm x 2-2.5 cm, and elliptical to narrowly obovate, thick leaves, 11-16 cm x 4-7 cm, occuring in Peninsular Malaysia and in northern Borneo.


In Indonesia, F. subcordata grows well in dryland and hilly areas.

Native range
Indonesia, Nepal, Vietnam

Tree management

Plantation: F. subcordata can be planted at 5-10 m spacing when used as fence border and at 10 m x 10 m within and between rows spacings when used as windbreak or fodder bank.

Husbandry: When planted as a cutting, it can be lopped 3 years after planting.  Complete defoliation can be carried out before the end of the dry season every year, or partial defoliation twice during the wet season and twice during the dry season.  For accumulation of in situ fodder, the tree should be lopped 3-4 months before the dry season so that the foliage is well developed during the dry season, otherwise the leaves will shed during the period of flower and seed formation.

The annual fodder and firewood DM yields of a 3-year-old F. subcordata range from 12-20 kg and 30-65 kg per tree respectively.  As the tree grows older, the annual fodder and firewood DM yields can increase up to 140-225 kg and 240-350 kg per tree respectively.  The foliage of a 25-year-old tree can feed one animal of 250 kg live weight for 20-30 days.

Many species can be grown with F. subcordata including grasses such as Cenchrus ciliaris L., Panicum maximum Jacq. and Urochloa mosambicensis (Hack.) Dandy; herbaceous legumes such as Stylosanthes hamata (L.) Taub., Stylosanthes scabra Vogel, and Centrosema pubescens Benth.; shrub legumes such as Leucaena leucocephala (Lamk) de Wit and Gliricidia sepium (Jacq.) Kunth ex Walp. and fodder trees such as Lannea coromandelica (Houtt.) Merrill and Hibiscus tiliaceus L.

Weight of a fresh fruit ranges from 10-20 g, and there are 1000-2000 ripe seeds per g.

In Indonesia, F. subcordata grows well in dryland and hilly areas.

Even though F. subcordata can be propagated by seed or layering, propagation by cuttings is most commonly practised by farmers.  For direct planting, healthy and straight 2-year-old stems of 5-10 cm in diameter and 1.5-2.5 m length are cut from the parent tree.  The end to be planted should be even and free from splitting, and any leaves and twigs should be removed.  Each cutting should be planted in a prepared hole of 25 cm depth and 15 cm width, then covered with soil in such a way that the planted stem cannot move.  Direct planting should be carried out at the onset of the rainy season, since planting during the wet season causes the buried cambium to rot.  Twelve weeks after planting 75% of the cuttings can develop buds and about 70% survive after 52 weeks.  Twenty-six weeks after planting a cutting, there can be 8-13 main branches of 45-55 cm length and 10-12 leaves per branch.

For planting in nurseries, twigs with 50-100 cm length are inserted in 10-15 cm of soft and moist soil.  Such cuttings are not ready for transplanting until the roots are well developed.  Since F. subcordata seed is very small, it is preferably sown under nursery conditions.  Under favourable conditions the small seeds will germinate in 3-4 weeks.  After development of the cotyledons and a few secondary leaves, seedlings should be transplanted into pots.  Planting into permanent sites is carried out during the rainy season when the plants are 6-12 months old.

Fodder: The foliage of F. subcordata is used as a feed supplement during the wet season and as the sole diet during the dry season for ruminants in some dryland farming areas.  The young fruit can be fed to ruminants. The leaves contain 1.2-1.8% N, crude fibre 26-30%, N-free extract 42-47%, ash 8-11%, total digestible nutrient 33-35% and massic energy of DM is 10 000-19 000 kJ/kg.

The wood is used as fuel for brick and limestone kilns, and the smaller branches are used for household firewood.

Timber: The timber is not hard enough for building houses, making farm implements or woodcarving.

Shade or shelter: The tree is used as shade for livestock, for storing crop residues, for reclamation of denuded land, for protecting soil on sloping land and as a windbreak.