The Ficus tree has a bad reputation in south Florida.
It’s been lumped the group of undesirable, low-life, who-let-them-in-to-begin-with non-natives.
They out compete natives for the same patch of real estate. Three of the more infamous plants in that group are melaleuca, Australian Pine, Old World Climbing Fern. Ficus isn’t as bad or all bad to be sure, and what’s more – there are so many species of them (800+), I’m not sure which is which … other than the Strangler Fig, which is native to Florida, is my favorite.
The patron saint of Ficus in Florida is Thomas Edison.
He dabbled in many varieties of the tree at his Ft. Myer’s winter retreat – no, not as a retirement diversion, but rather in pursuit of a natural source of rubber from a latex producing plant.
He grew some big ones, which are still there, standing (or rather, growing). They are as big a part of the historic grounds as the buildings, high-dive pool, and lab. Actually they are even bigger … literally, these trees are giants.
The most prominently displayed tree was a gift from his good friend Harvey Firestone. Did I mention that Henry Ford wintered right next door?
So for me, native or non-native, the Ficus tree is vital part of south Florida – and for that matter, American history.
What’s the highest rubber-yielding plant he found?
That would be a native – Golden Rod.
Some endings are too good to be true!