|20. Miramar Moreton
Bay Fig Tree
Ocean Avenue and Wilshire Boulevard
Miramar Moreton Bay Fig Tree - with man - photo by Michael Grandcolas
Miramar Moreton Bay Fig Tree - in shade - photo by Michael Grandcolas
Young Roy Jones, far right
Miramar, home of Senator John Percival Jones built 1887
Connie Cramer Collection
Moreton Bay Fig Trees (Ficus macrophylla) Kauai, Hawaii
by Roddy Scheer
| This 80-foot tall Moreton
Bay Fig Tree (Ficus macrophylla) is the second largest of its kind in California,
and possibly the United States. It was planted more than a century ago at
Miramar, the private estate of Senator Percival Jones, and has a charming
story to accompany it.
Ficus macrophylla is a native of east Australia. When it is grown in an open area where it can spread, the Moreton Bay Fig may become as much as 150 feet wide; but crowded in its natural forest habitat--or near buildings in an urban setting--it tends to grow tall and narrow. The story of this Moreton Bay Fig Tree dates back to the 1880s, when Santa Monica was a summer holiday spot. An Australian sailor had been drinking at the Rapp Saloon, or someplace similar. When the bill came, he had no money to pay for his drinks. The Aussie bartered with the bartender, offering him a Moreton Bay Fig Tree sapling instead of cash. Figuring it was this or nothing, the bartender accepted. Having no interest in plants, the bartender then gave the sapling to the wife of Senator Jones, who requested that her gardener plant it in the yard of their estate.
Their home has since been replaced by the Fairmont Miramar Hotel, but
the tree remains. Since 1921, the hotel has welcomed such illustrious
guests as Howard Hughes, and Mrs. John F. Kennedy.
San Diego is also known for its Moreton Bay Fig Trees, they were planted in the Prado area of Balboa Park, in preparation for the 1915 exposition. One in that area is also listed in the California Registry of Big Trees as one of the champion trees of the state. According to the registry, in 1996, the tree measured about 78 feet (24 meters) high, with a crown width of 123 feet (37 m) and a trunk girth of 486 inches (12.3 m). The Moreton Bay Fig tree of Santa Barbara, California, has a broader canopy but is not as high.
The small dry fruits of the Moreton Bay Fig--like those of other figs--are
actually composed of hundreds of tiny flowers completely enclosed within
the inverted fleshy tissue of the receptacle upon which they rest. A tiny
hole (called an ostiole) in the tip of the fruit allows minute symbiotic
wasps, which pollinate and lay their eggs within the flowers, to enter
and leave the structure.