Ficus racemosa. Common names: cluster fig, goolar (in Hindi) and atti (in Tamil).
I painted this, with the plum-headed parakeet, in 2018, for this year’s book Hidden Kingdom — Fantastical Plants of the Western Ghats . Commonly found in Indian cities and towns, this particular tree was spotted near Hassan. It is easy to spot: just look for the bountiful clusters of fruit growing directly from the trunk. It belongs to the Ficus genus, collectively known as ‘figs’.
If you are wondering what its flowers are like, you are in for a surprise. The fig is actually a compartment carrying hundreds of tiny flowers. The story of how these hidden flowers are pollinated is fascinating. Tiny wasps crawl in through tiny openings, in search of a safe place to lay eggs, and only newborn female wasps escape their fig of birth, carrying pollen with them and continuing the cycle of reproduction. This give and take relationship between the fig and the wasp is an example of ‘mutualism’, as they both depend on each other for their existence.
The tree is a personal favourite of mine, as my friends and I often go searching for its fruits in the Indira Gandhi Park in Bengaluru. To me, they resemble big bunches of Christmas baubles.
Nirupa Rao is a Bengaluru-based artist and botanical illustrator.