"There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion" Francis Bacon 1561-1626

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Leaf of the Day: The Beautiful Mosaic Fig

We are having a cold snap here... very cold. Today there were record low temperatures and a very cold wind. It was only one degree warmer than chilly London! We have gone from wondering whether to put the air con on or to put the heating on, in just a week. Apparently this icy blast is coming down from Canada, and parts of New York state are under 16 inches of snow... I am worried about my tiny seedlings and moved them around the apartment to get a little warmth and sunlight where they could.

But to brighten up my day I have drawn the The Mosaic Fig, Ficus aspera
This is just a beautiful, beautiful tree, and is possibly the most spectacular variety from the huge and varied ficus family which has a plant for almost any occasion and location. This tree grows by the side of the path which runs through the White Garden at Leu Gardens.


The path through the White Garden with the arching branches of the just flowering pompom tree, Montanea grandiflora in the foreground.

This one has attained tree height and is a lovely shape, its branches elegantly incline downwards displaying these exotic and intricately variegated leaves with tiny "figs" nestling between them, as if holding out a gift for your delight. These little figs turn from velvety striped red and green to orangy red.



This beautiful fig variety was introduced into Britain from Polynesia where it grows wild, in the mid 1800's. It was used as a much admired house plant and has a mention as being a "new varieties" prize winner for Messrs. Veitch in The Floricultural Cabinet And Florists Magazine in 1853.
It also went by the name of the "Clown Fig"as early as 1884 when clowns looked different from how we think of them today. I think the comparison will have been mostly to do with the white face and spotted and striped costume. The Victorian clown developed from the Harlequin with the diagonal geometric costumes. They would sometimes have painted red noses and are often pictured with bizarre red tufted hair and red pompoms on their costumes.
Here are the famous Payne brothers who performed in Covent garden in the late 1800's.


Image and more info from the London Theatre Museum here

The large, simply shaped leaves are a wonderful and intricate combination of ivory and greens in a slightly cubed pattern, hence the mosaic name, which often follows the lines of the veins, or, I thought, like aerial views of old neat strip-farmed fields in the UK.
I ran out of time (and patience) to paint the whole leaf..they are big leaves. This is a relatively small one at 9 inches long. The fruit are tiny by comparison, the largest just 3/4 inch.

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Mosaic Fig, Figs and Half a Leaf




1 comment:

cherry said...

beautiful & yummy
I so love your blog always something special each time I stop by.