Ficus Strangler Fig (Ficus sp.) (source: Selingan Island, Sabah, Borneo)
Taxus. hat ähnliche Eigenschaften;
A Welsh School Proving
The name Strangler Fig stands for following trees:
Ficus aurea, in Amerika bekannt als Florida strangler fig (Florida-Würgefeige)
Ficus barbata, Bartfeige oder bearded fig
Ficus citrifolia, ebenfalls Bartfeige genannt
Ficus watkinsiana, in Queensland endemisch (3 distinct Populationens)
Why the Strangler Fig Tree?
It was June 1998 when my mother was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease [= Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)/Stephen Hawkins], after she had noticed weakness
for months in her hands and legs. Our family watched as my mother gradually lost the use of her limbs and was restricted to head movements. Allopathically we knew
there was no cure, but it was at this point, that I started to consider what alternative forms of treatment might provide hope. We tried, faith healers, acupuncturists, herbalists, dieticians and even made two trips to Brazil to see a psychic surgeon. By this time, my mother was having difficulty swallowing food and even liquids. We then watched
as she lost weight rapidly, wanting to eat, but the muscles in her mouth and throat were weakening.
Over the months that followed I read many books and read about a homoeopath in Kent who’d had success in treating MND. It was my first encounter with homoeopathy. We travelled there a number of times, but yet my mother got weaker. Why did he have success with some patients and not with others? Why did he ask about her unique symptoms and not the standard MND symptom picture? I was intrigued and so I started reading books about homoeopathy and found that the possibilities were endless.
At this point I knew I’d found what I’d been searching for! It all seemed to make such complete sense.
As the months went by my mother dropped to five stone and her breathing became laboured. Physically, she was a shadow of herself. For those who don’t know about
the illness, MND affects all the muscles of the body. The messages from the brain to the muscles slowly stop getting through and the muscles fail to work, while the mind
stays totally intact. Those affected become slowly paralysed while being completely aware of the full horror of the situation.
My mother’s partner Jeff would carry her to bed each night and spent many nights with her, in the small hours of the morning sitting in their garden as she needed to feel
the air on her face and try to get some air into her lungs. Watching someone struggling to breathe makes you feel so helpless. Life was very stressful for everyone and we needed to get away for a while.
August 2000 saw my husband Barry and I set off for Peninsula Malaysia. We had planned to visit three separate rainforest locations; lowland rainforest, cloud forest
and a mangrove area. It was at the first of these where I came face to face with the Strangler Fig tree for the first time.
The lowland habitat we visited was a national park area called Taman Negara. This comprises of 43,000 hectares of some of the oldest virgin rainforest in the world.
This area has been left untouched after successive ice ages and it is estimated to have been rainforest for 130 million years, which makes it older than the Congo and
the Amazon basins (Eliot & Renshaw, 2000).
It is difficult to express the enormity of this first day at Taman Negara and how this one day, has affected my life since. I am moved by many things, by the stars at night
and the comets that quietly slip by; by all creatures however big or small. I am always drawn to the unusual and the Strangler Fig is unusual in many ways.
The air was hot and very humid this particular day, as we grabbed our cameras and binoculars and headed into the forest. The sound of cicadas filled the air like a chorus
of chain saws around us. I was full of anticipation of what animals we might see and photograph. Of course the trees were big and impressive, but not at all a focus of mine. However, this was to change rapidly!
We turned a path following the sounds of some birds ahead only to be stopped in our tracks by what I can only describe as a monster. It seemed like a tangled wall of trunk blocking our path. I stood on the roots and looked up into the canopy. It was over 40m high and I couldn’t see the crown. It was so wide; it was like an obstacle course and
we clambered over and around the thick root system. I couldn’t figure it out. How could one tree trunk look so strange and so deformed? Barry had read about the tree and explained the life of the Strangler Fig and how it claimed a tree by slowly paralysing its host from the top down. I was awestruck and would defy anybody seeing this tree
for the first time to feel any different. It was the sheer strength and power that was so captivating.
A tree that grew from the top down, how unusual!!!
This tree reminded me of my mother’s illness. MND is a neurological disease that slowly paralysis the body. The control centre being the brain at the top and the paralysis taking place below. Just like the Strangler! It was from this moment on that my fascination with the Strangler Fig began…
Strangler Fig Tree Ecology
Bizarre is a word you would definitely use to describe the growth forms of the fig tree family. Most people are familiar with the Old World edible fig (Ficus carica), but there are many other species of figs, the vast majority of which grow in tropical locations around the world. It is true to say, that they are one of the most successful trees on Earth.
Almost every tropical continent and major island group has an indigenous species of fig. In their native, tropical habitats, many species of fig are called, ‘stranglers.’
The Spanish call the strangler fig, ‘Matapalo’ which means ‘tree killer’.
Another widely used common name for the Strangler Fig trees are Banyan Trees. A large proportion of the 1,000 species of fig trees are Stranglers. Without expert knowledge, it is almost impossible to identify a Strangler Fig down to species level. Furthermore, there is likely to be a large degree of genetic variation within species as the regions they grow in allow this to occur readily.
Some of Southeast Asia’s ficus species: Ficus benjamina, F. religiosa, F. microcarpa, F. rubiginosa and F. macrophyll and the infamous Strangler Figs.
The forest floor of a rainforest can be a difficult place for seedlings to grow.
There is little light and a lot of competition for water and nutrients. Strangler Figs have made an amazing adaptation to avoid these difficulties. Unlike most plants,
Strangler Figs start out living as epiphytes in the crook of a tree or on a branch. Tiny, sticky seeds are deposited high in a tree by animal droppings. The seeds are not
affected by the animal's digestive tract and soon germinate. If the right environment is present, with the correct bacteria, then the seed will germinate. The Strangler is
not a parasitic tree. It does not feed from the host; it is an epiphyte, using another tree as a vantage point from which to grow. Once it has become established in the top of another tree it already has access to sunlight, which is essential for growth. It sends aerial roots out to obtain moisture and other roots are sent down around the host tree.
It is like the botanical equivalent of the Boa Constrictor. These snake like roots gradually wind their way around the trunk of the host tree, constricting and slowly killing it. Eventually the host tree dies through strangulation, shading and root competition. The host tree (unless it’s a palm) finally succumbs and slowly rots away. It is fascinating
to study a mature strangler fig. As there is no solid trunk of its own, once the host tree dies and rots away, it is sometimes possible to step inside the void and look up the inside of the tree.
Strangler Figs have light coloured bark and form umbrella. shaped canopies. They are green above and lighter below, the leaves are simple, ovoid and usually between 3 - 7 cm long. Waxy leaves protect the Strangler Fig from drying winds and sunlight that it is exposed to high in the canopy or on coastal locations.
What is so fascinating about the Strangler Figs is their versatility. In the wild, Strangler Figs grow from the top down using a host tree. However, in cultivation it is possible
to plant a Strangler Fig and it will develop from the ground upwards just like ‘conventional’ trees.
Food and Shelter In spite of their sinister name, Strangler Figs are one of the most important plants in tropical forest ecosystems. They are often seen as a keystone species,
as different fig trees fruit at different times of the year, ensuring a continuous supply of food. In some forests up to 70% of the animals depend on these fig trees.
During the day hundreds of animals feed on the sweet fruits, including many species of birds and monkeys. As night falls, the day foraging animals retire and flocks of fruit-eating bats descend upon the branches. Fig trees typically produce three or more crops of fruit a year. This provides food throughout the year when other sources are in short supply.
The fruit of the Strangler Figs are fleshy and juicy. These fruits are full of small seeds, which readily pass through the digestive tract of animals. In fact, the purgative effect
of fig fruits on the bowels encourages it’s seed to be widely dispersed. In addition to the wonderful food source, hundreds of animal species make their homes in the hollow trunk where the Strangler Fig has enveloped the host tree. The cavities provide housing for a myriad of creatures, including geckos, frogs, lizards, bees, wasps, beetles and
ants. These trunk-dwellers in turn provide an additional food source for higher levels of the food web.
These highly successful trees, though bringing such wealth to the rainforest ecosystems, can also be very destructive. According to Paul C. Standley (Flora of Yucatan, 1930), they are also a major factor in the destruction of Mayan cities. The seeds, which have been dispersed by animals, can also germinate in cracks in walls and buildings. The powerful roots will reduce ancient walls to rubble in a relatively short period of time. Many ancient cities are partially or completely covered by the Strangler Figs. In Guatemala, the wonderful pyramids of Tikal resemble islands of stone in a verdant sea of tropical forest. A steep trail ascends one of the tallest pyramids,
winding through a mass of fig roots, which serve as convenient steps and handrails.
A Symbiotic Relationship
One of the most amazing parts of this extraordinary tree is its flower. What we think of as the fruit is really a hollow, flower-bearing structure called a cyconia. The inside of this structure is lined with hundreds of male and female cells.
There are two different types of female flowers, one with a short style and one with a long style. Each species of fig has a symbiotic relationship with its own species of tiny pollinator wasp (Agaoninae spp). These wasps are only about 2 millimetres long, and enter the cyconia through an opening at the bottom of the fruit.
When inside, these tiny wasps pollinate the long-styled female flowers in the process of laying their eggs in the ovaries of short-style flowers. Virtually every fig species has
its own unique wasp pollinator. The wasps live through the year inside the fig's hollow fruits, which are called syconia. This is one of nature's most amazing symbiotic relationships between a tree and an insect. The tree relies on these special wasps carrying the pollen from one cyconium to another in order to be able to produce seeds.
It is clear that the Strangler Fig is vital for rainforest ecosystems, but at the same time it brings death and destruction to other forms of trees and even buildings that are unfortunate enough to hold the seed. It is a hopeless situation for the host tree once the Strangler Fig seed germinates. Its fate is sealed and it has to wait while the snake like roots slowly wrap around the host extinguishing its life and takes over its place in the rainforest.
We saw a number of Strangler Figs in Kota Kinabalu Park, which is found on the N E side of Borneo and then in Pouring, but as they formed part of a thick rainforest
canopy, none of them had any leaves that were accessible and I thought I’d leave tree climbing as a last resort!
On 3rd of August we took a flight to Sandakan on the NE side of Borneo and then a boat from the jetty out to a small island called Selingan. This island is also known as Turtle Island. It is one of the most NE islands of Borneo and the next island across belonged to the Philippines. As we left Sandakan we travelled past an amazing water village, kept afloat on stilts. It had been in existence since 1880. It was quite remarkable.
After a journey of 1¾ hours by boat we approached a truly beautiful island. There was a small golden sand peninsular that swept into the ocean and guided the small boat ashore. It was a truly tropical paradise.
Selingan Island, Sabah, Borneo
We had chosen this island specifically to witness the Green Turtles coming in at night to lay their eggs. It was going to be a short stay as we had a very early departure the next morning. We checked in and were given our chalet key. It was a very small island with only a few places of accommodation. It is primarily one of the research islands for the turtles, but the only island that allows visitors. As we walked the sandy track past the turtle hatchery to our chalet there stood a magnificent Strangler Fig, in all its glory.
The host tree had long since died and there wasn’t another tree in sight. This was a giant of a tree and was the first Strangler I had ever seen on its own and the
wonderful domed canopy arched downwards, almost touching the ground. The leaves were accessible. This had to be one!
Fear now began to set in. This was a heavily protected island. In fact they had 24-hour guards stationed all around as they’d had some problems with the Philippines and they had to guard the turtles from collectors. We sat on the beach and discussed the best way to get the leaves and the woody stems we needed. We agreed that we should do this under the cover of darkness and took a stroll past the tree to surreptitiously decide which part would be the best.
Shortly after 20 h. we were called down to the beach to see a Green Turtle lay her eggs in the sand. People are banned from the beaches from dusk onwards not to frighten
the turtles and we were only permitted to see, with a warden, once she had started laying and just for a few minutes. Once this was over, the warden took us, and a group
of turtle hatchlings down onto the beach where we released the turtles watching them scurry down the beach, flippers flying, into the sea. I wished them good luck.
They wouldn’t be back for at least 30 years!
Green Turtle hatchling, Selingan Island
We said our goodnights and by torchlight headed back to our chalet. We waited a while for the other guests to make their way to bed and once the talking had died down
we crept out. In the distance the odd flashlight was visible from a patrolling guard, but as soon as this disappeared we headed straight for the fig. Barry picked the fresh
leaves and some woody stems, I thanked the tree and we walked quickly back to our room. I lay out all the leaves and stems and chopped them into tiny pieces before
placing them in the alcohol solution we had carefully been carrying around. I left two pieces of leaf out, one each to put under our pillows to see what we would dream.
Dream: Barry dreamt my mother died, but couldn’t remember any details. - - - -
Dream: I dreamt I was in a toilet block connected to a very long corridor. I was being strangled from behind. I couldn’t see who it was and I knew no one would hear me scream. It was a hopeless situation and I knew I was going to die. - - - - -
When I woke up my hands started itching and I was scratching them quite hard and they became very red. I remembered then, some of the sap had spilt onto my hands
when I was cutting the leaves and stems the night before. My hands remained very itchy for the rest of the holiday.
As we got on the boat we were warned about the fines and prison sentences we would face if we took anything from the island. We then found out that this group of
islands was one of the most heavily protected parts of Malaysia.
I started to feel sick. I casually kicked my legs onto my bag protecting my sample and smiled as my stomach began to sink. Surely, this couldn’t apply to just the tiniest tree specimen? It couldn’t infect other areas as it was in 90% alcohol.
From Selingan Island we headed to a pristine rainforest habitat called Sukau only accessible by a boat up the Kinabatangan River. We stayed there for several nights before chilling out on Manukan Island on the N W side of Borneo for the last few days of our trip. It was on this island that we started to feel ill. Barry suffered with diarrhoea
and I had a very upset stomach and felt very nauseas. For the three mornings we stayed on the island I would wake with an unbelievable headache and drenching sweats.
I would take headache pills before I could even think of doing anything. I would toss and turn in bed.
I felt “As if a string attached to my belly button and it was being pulled through my back”. My neck was really aching and my ears were hurting. I remember thinking, how pathetic I was! We had sustained loads of mosquito bites from Selingan Island and I was now frantically itching them. I looked like I had the plague!
We were feeling particularly rough when we got to the jetty to catch our boat only to find out we had been given the wrong time, we had just watched our boat sail away
and had to wait another 1½ hours in the blistering heat.
Fortunately there was a canopy on the jetty, which provided some relief.
On arrival at the airport I felt it was only a matter of time before I was physically sick, the sweat was pouring off me and my head was pounding and we still had to go
through customs! Every where I looked there were signs warning of the 6 months prison sentence that we would face and the £750,000 fine that we would incur if anyone tried smuggling any plants or animals out of the country. I placed my rucksack on the conveyor belt behind another couple and watched it temporarily disappear through the scanner.
Just as we went to collect our bags the customs official spoke. They wanted to search the bag. I felt faint, but then realised they were talking to the people in front.
With a new spurt of energy, we picked up our bags and headed for check in.
The flight home was horrendous; the sweats were coming on every few hours. I couldn’t eat anything as I felt so sick and I was shovelling down the headache tablets.
We arrived back in London on Wednesday 11th August. We were so relieved to be almost home. The sweats continued however and the next day I made myself keep our dog’s appointment with the vet for her acupuncture.
Looking back I must have looked dreadful. Whereas I normally hold my dog for the 45 minute session, the vet made me a cup of tea and held her himself. He said that he thought I didn’t look too good and I could see him glancing at my stomach. I looked down to see my shirt was soaking with perspiration. He asked me where I’d been and about my symptoms and said he thought I had Malaria and to go straight to the doctors for a blood test.
To cut a long story short the next few days were pretty rough. I then rang Linda (my clinical supervisor and subsequently my homoeopath) and she prescribed me China over the next few days.
Over the course of a week I felt much stronger day by day and no symptoms ever returned. Thank you Linda!
All I needed to do now was to go to the Helios Pharmacy and make the remedy!
Making the Remedy
The Strangler Fig was placed in a solution of 90% alcohol. This was the tincture = 1x. I had arranged to be at the Helios Pharmacy in Kent on Monday 23rd August and was relieved when this day approached, as I just wanted to get this part of the task done. I felt until it was made into its potentised solution there was always the chance I could drop the bottle, have my rucksack snatched, anything and everything might happen.
I had arranged to travel down to the Helios Pharmacy in Kent with my cousin, Rhian who assisted in the making of the remedy. I remember guarding my rucksack with my life. No-one was going to take this from me now. I had travelled so far and been through quite a lot to get to where I was now. I was shown a space on a bench where I was given glass vials, a rack for storing the separate potentised vials, an alcohol filled dispenser, which neatly discharged exactly 99 drops of alcohol into each vial and of course
a large book for succussion. I was given plenty of friendly instruction before we started.
Two weeks before the proving was due to start I contacted Helios who made up 15 remedy bottles and numbered these 1-15 . As it was a double blind trial,
I had no knowledge as to who were issued with the placebo bottles until after the proving was over. I had numbered the provers, so issued the corresponding bottle number
to the prover number. Before the proving meeting took place I met with my clinical supervisor Linda Gwillim to discuss the dates and the framework for the project.
Mind: Ailments from anger - with indignation/suppressed anger suppressed/from mental exertion
Anger (with himself/violent)
Anxiety (from anticipation/about own health/over occupation/on waking from frightful dreams)/Fear of robbers
Aversion to customary work
Awareness heightened (of the presence of birds)
Beautiful things; awareness of; heightened: 15
Beautiful things; they are: 15
Colours (desire for)
Company - aversion to (desire for solitude)/desire for
Confidence, want of, self-confidence
Contradiction, disposition to contradiction
Delusions - is out of the body/of emptiness of/ugly face/visions
Desire to visit old friends and relations
Discontented (with himself)
Dwells on past disagreeable occurrences
Forsaken feeling (sensation of isolation)
Helplessness, feeling of
Indifference (to work)
Irritability (towards children/with people/from trifles/when working)
Making mistakes (in speaking/in spelling)
Music (desire for)
Observer of oneself
Order, desire for
Power, sensation of
Rage (with cursing/with weeping)
Sadness (after quarrel with child/with weeping)
Sensitive (to nature and natural objects)
Spaced out feeling
Thoughts – persistent/of the past/sexual
Weeping (easily/with forsaken feeling/irritable/at sad thoughts/from vexation
Writing, difficulty in expressing ideas in
Vertigo: in general
Itching: 5, 15
Sensation of lightness (when smoking)
Hair, affections of, bristling, standing on end, sensation of: 2, 12
Pain [l. to r./morning/on waking/in forehead (above eyes/behind eyes)/occiput/(l.) side/(r.) temple/vertex/aching/bursting/cutting/dull/pressing/pulsating]
Pain (l./16 h./pressing/pressure)
Rub, desire to
Vision: Blurred (l.)
Painful eruptions: 3, 12
Itching (in concha)
Nose: Discharge (bloody/clear/copious/green)
Sneezing (on waking)
Face: Dry lips: 5, 7 2
Eruptions spots (forehead)
Expression, old looking
Pain (in cheek/pressing, pressure/prickling)
Mouth: Dryness (on waking/thirstless)
Teeth: Pain (r./upper/aching)
Hawk, disposition to
“As if a lump”
Pain (> cold drinks/swallowing/burning/sore)
Stomach: Appetite – diminished/increased
Nausea (mrning/after eating)
Pain (morning/during nausea/aching/cramping/rumbling)
Flatulence (+ distension/during constipation)
Pain [l./r./> lying/< touching/r. hypochondria/(region of) umbilicus/dragging, bearing down/lancinating/sharp/stitching]
Flatus (smells like spoiled eggs)
Stool: Hard/offensive odor/saft
Bladder: Urging to urinate
Urine: Odour strong
Female organs: Leukorrhea
Menses - bright red/clotted/scanty
Voice: Croaking: 9, 12 8
Cough: In general
Chest: Pain [sides (l./r.)/during cough/(l.) mamma/constricting/cutting/sore]
Pain [on motion/while walking/cervical/(r.) lumbar region]
Limbs: Cramps in r. leg
Dryness of hands
Heat in lower limbs, sensation
Itching [arms/wrist/leg (> scratching)/calf (> scratching)
Stiffness (in lower limbs)
Weakness (in lower limbs)
Pain [upper/lower limbs/shoulder/(r.) hip/(r./l.) knee/foot/aching (muscles/upper/lower limbs)/burning/sore, bruised (upper limbs)/stitching (“As from pins and needles”)]
Sleep: Falling asleep, difficult
Waking - too early (5 – 6 h.)/from and with heat/from nausea
Dreams: Animals/Anxious/beach/Birds/bridge/big cats/Chaotic/newborns/churches/of the dead/animals (dogs/lions)/Driving/fire/food/old friends/giants/Holidays/house (decorating/moving)/Marriage (unfaithful)/
Motion/Motorcycles/Nakedness/Pursued/(crossing over) river/war/water
Perspiration: In general: 3, 5
Eruptions, eczema, itching
Itching ( and bleeding/> scratching/must scratch until it bleeds)
Generals: > open air open/desires open air
Energy, excess of
Food and Drink - <: alcoholic drinks (wine); Desires: alcoholic drinks (wine)/bananas/chocolate/food/sugar; Aversion: wine;
Heat, flushes of/ Heat, sensation of
Influenza, sensations, as if
Numbness of affected parts
Burning – externally/internally
Cramping, muscles: 2, 10, 12, 13, 15
Sore, bruised (externally/internally)
Weariness (evening 19 – 21 h.)
MIND (Anger, frustration).
Skin (Dryness, ITCHING).
Extremity Pain, Knee pain.
<: suppressed anger, alcohol, motion, touch;
>: open air, music, rest;