In this talk, we will be learning about the interesting and unique biology of figs. The genus Ficus (figs) have a most unusual inflorescence and life cycle. The fig we love to eat is not actually a fruit, but an inside-out inflorescence, and these flowers are pollinated by minute symbiotic wasps. There are about 830 species of figs and they each have their own “in-house” pollinator wasp. It is without a doubt the most complicated and remarkable example of coevolution between a plant and an insect. It is also a difficult topic to generalize because there are so many variations and exceptions in fig wasp biology and behavior. Richard Dawkins, in his book Climbing Mount Improbable, calls it “the most difficult and complicated of all my stories.”
Wayne Armstrong is a professor emeritus in the Life Sciences Department at Palomar College in San Marcos, California. He is also the botanical consultant for the Palomar College Arboretum and editor of the quarterly Aboretum newsletter. His research interests include the taxonomy of duckweeds (family Araceae, subfamily Lemnoideae), California floristics, fig pollination, tropical drift seeds, and natural seed jewelry. He has published more than 200 articles in various natural history magazines and is the author of the popular web site Wayne’s Word, an on-line textbook of natural history, with more than 9,000 images.