Why Do Figs Have So Many Seeds?
The fig is one of the most remarkable fruits in the world. It has been valued as food by man since prehistoric times. At one time it was a delicacy that emperors enjoyed, at another time it was the staple diet of slaves.
From the juice of figs are made alcohol, wine, and a dye for cloth. The leaves are used to polish ivory, while the cord is made from the bark of the fig tree.
There are many varieties of figs, but the most delicious one known to most of us is the Smyrna (Izmir) fig, which is named after the city in Turkey. This fig is now cultivated in California.
When we look at the large, fleshy fig what we see is really a baglike structure, nearly closed at its top. Inside are many true flowers which produce the pollen and what we call “seeds”. But these are not seeds at all. They are the true fruit of the fig!
In the cultivation of Smyrna figs, a very interesting process takes place. The Smyrna fig can be pollinated only by pollen from the Capri fig. Although the Capri fig bears a great deal of pollen, this can be released from the Capri fig and reach the fruit of the Smyrna fig only with the help of a tiny wasp-like insect known as the fig wasp.
The fig wasp lives in the Caprifigs until it is ready to lay its eggs. It then leaves the Capri fig and carries the pollen from the Capri fig on its body. It crawls into the Smyrna fig and rubs off the pollen on the flowers.