Monday, June 23, 2008

The Rubber Plant

The rubber plant ( Ficus elastica) is a familiar sight in most
urban homes. It is most suitable for indoor cultivation but if
planted outside, it grows into a tall tree.
All ficuses love a humid atmosphere and moderate sunlight. They
grow best in rich soil with some sand in it. Although they can
be potted at any time of the year (in India), the monsoon is the
safest time.
Ficus elastica is a moraceous plant belonging to the Moraceae, a
mostly tropical and sub-tropical family of trees and shrubs, in-
cluding fig, mulberry, breadfruit, and hop, many of which have
latex in the stems and heads enclosed in a fleshy receptacle.
The one that i have is ficus elastica decora tricolour. As you
can see in the photo, the leaves are green and cream whereas the
new leaves are sheathed in pink. They look most attractive during
this season.
Recently, I transplanted one and also trimmed a branch or two. I
didn't realise the latex would spoil my housecoat (early morning
gardening convenient wear) and also leave chewing-gummy goo on
my hands--i find gloves constrictive. Later i looked up a book
on Nature and this is what i got in a page titled "Toxic Deterrents".
If an animal bites into a rubber plant it gets an unpleasant sur-
prise. Instead of oozing sap, the tree produces latex-a milky fluid
that is packed with poisons, giving it a fiery taste. Like real milk,
latex contains billions of microscopic droplets that are suspended
in a runny flluid. When latex is exposed to the air, the fluid part
evaporates, but the droplets stay behind, creating sticky blobs
that clog up an animal's mouth-parts, feathers, and fur.


Titania said...

In the cold climate the Rubber plant is very popular housplant also for offices. I had a huge exemplar in one of my earlier gardens.But not this pretty varigated one. We have a similar one the Moreton Bay figtree which can grow to enormous hight with buttressed roots. I am not sure if it is the same family. Today in the nursery I was tempted to buy the varigated one but I decided against it because I have already so many trees. Instead I bought a few Cannas, salomon and pink ones.

Kanak Hagjer said...

Wasn't too sure about the Rubber plant doing well in cold climes so i mentioned India only. Now i know, and i'm glad you left a comment, Trudi. I hope to see photos of the cannas you mentioned, in your posts, later.