Fig trees (Ficus) have been cultivated around the works for thousands of years, historically symbolizing abundance, fertility, and spiritual awakening. They are associated with wisdom, knowledge, and enlightenment. The fig’s ability to bear fruit throughout the year also represents sustenance, continuity, and the cycle of life. In this guide, I’ll explore the fascinating meaning, symbolism, and cultural significance of fig trees.
Fig Trees and the Tree of Life
Fig trees are strongly associated with the Tree of Life concept. The fig tree symbolizes immortality, wisdom, and divine knowledge in various cultures and religions. It represents the interconnectedness of all living beings and the cyclical nature of life. The fig tree’s ability to bear fruit and provide sustenance reinforces its significance as a sacred tree, often depicted as a bridge between the earthly and spiritual realms.
Historical Symbolism of Fig Trees
Many cultures have associated fig trees as symbols of fertility, prosperity, and abundance. Figs were also considered to be a delicacy in the Mediterranean world. Fig trees may also represent knowledge, wisdom, and enlightenment.
Fig Tree Fruit and Fertility
Many cultures consider fig fruits to be sacred symbols of the gods. The Egyptians believed that Isis, one of their prominent goddesses, was the first to teach humans how to grow figs. Roman women ate figs before their wedding night to improve their fertility.
Fig Trees in Feng Shui
In feng shui, many types of ficus grown as houseplants are linked with the Wood element. Common species include fiddle-leaf figs and rubber plants. Fig trees are associated with wealth, prosperity, growth, and emotional support.
According to the Bagua map, fig trees should be placed in the eastern or southeastern areas of the home. These areas are strong with the Wood element and govern aspects such as prosperity and family.
The sycamore fig (Ficus sycomorus) may represent the Egyptian Tree of Life, which symbolizes the circle of life and nature. The Egyptians saw several mother goddesses as “Lady of the Sycamore Fig”, including Isis, Hathor, and Nut.
The ancient Greeks associated fig leaves with Venus. When Venus was born naked from the sea, she wore only a fig leaf to cover her modesty. As such, the fig represented femininity, love, and sexuality. The Greeks also gave out figs as prizes for winners in athletic competitions.
Fig Trees in the Bible
Fig trees are referenced many times in the Bible. After eating the forbidden fruit (possibly a fig), Adam and Eve used fig leaves to cover their modesty and shame.
In one of the stories of the New Testament, Jesus, and his disciples became hungry while traveling. Jesus found a fig tree that unfortunately had no fruit, so he cursed it. The tree was later found mysteriously uprooted. Jesus later brought the tree back to life, redeeming it.
Fig Trees in Eastern Cultures
Many Eastern cultures also venerate figs. In Buddhism, the Buddha meditated underneath a sacred fig tree (Ficus religiosa) for 12 years before achieving spiritual enlightenment. As such, the fig became known as the “Bodhi tree”, which symbolizes wisdom and enlightenment.
Hindus also consider fig trees as sacred, as referenced in the ‘Purana’ holy book. The Hindu god Vishnu was believed to have been born underneath a fig tree. The Hindu world tree, the ‘Ashvattha’, is depicted as a sacred fig tree.
About Fig Trees
Fig trees are evergreen trees, shrubs, and epiphytes from the Ficus genus of the fig or mulberry family (Moraceae). The genus contains approximately 850 species native to parts of Mediterranean Europe and southwest Asia.
Most figs have broad leaves divided into three lobes or large oval-shaped leaves. Many fig trees produce round or urn-shaped fruits that fig wasps pollinate. Fig trees may also produce aerial roots to help them cling to nearby trees.
Popular Types of Fig Trees
Fig trees are commonly cultivated for both indoor and outdoor environments. Some of the most popular varieties of fig include:
Common Fig (Ficus carica): The most widely cultivated and popular type of fig tree, known for its sweet and delicious fruit.
Celeste Fig (Ficus carica ‘Celeste’): A small to medium-sized fig with purplish-brown skin.
Fiddle-Leaf Fig (Ficus lyrata): Known for its large, leathery leaves with distinct veining, the Fiddle-Leaf Fig is a popular choice for indoor houseplants. It has an elegant appearance and can grow quite tall, making it a statement plant in any room.
Weeping Fig (Ficus benjamin): A versatile and adaptable fig tree, the Weeping Fig is often seen as a houseplant. It has slender, drooping leaves and can tolerate indoor conditions well.
Creeping Fig (Ficus pumila): Creeping Fig is a small-leafed variety commonly used for ground cover or as a trailing vine. It can be trained to climb walls or trellises indoors, making it an excellent choice for adding a touch of greenery to vertical spaces.
Little Fiddle Fig (Ficus lyrata ‘Bambino’): A compact version of the Fiddle-Leaf Fig, the Little Fiddle Fig is an excellent option for smaller indoor spaces. It retains the characteristic fiddle-shaped leaves but stays more petite in size.
Rubber Fig (Ficus elastic): The Rubber Fig is a hardy indoor plant with thick, glossy leaves. It can adapt to various light conditions and is relatively low-maintenance, making it a popular choice for beginners.
Miniature Leaf Fig (Ficus pumila ‘Quercifolia’): This variety of Creeping Fig has small, oak-shaped leaves and a trailing growth habit. It is often used in terrariums, hanging baskets, or as a cascading plant on shelves.
Variegated Fig (Ficus benjamina ‘Starlight’): With its attractive variegated foliage featuring creamy white and green patterns, it adds elegance and visual interest to indoor spaces.
Decora Fig (Ficus deltoidea): The Decora Fig is a compact fig tree with small, glossy leaves. It is well-suited for indoor cultivation and can tolerate lower light conditions.
Fig trees represent abundance, prosperity, and fertility. In Buddhism and Hinduism, fig trees are seen as sacred. The ancient Greeks associated fig trees with femininity, love, and sexuality. In the Bible, fig leaves are associated with Adam and Eve. Some cultures consider fig trees to represent the Tree of Life.
Further reading: Discover the amazing uses and benefits of fiddle leaf figs.
Edd is a budding content writer and gardener living in the United Kingdom. He has a bachelor's degree in Creative and Professional Writing and has written for several gardening publications online. He is passionate about nature and sustainability with a focus on gardening and wildlife.