Thursday, January 13, 2011

Brown Turkey Fig

The 4th in the fruit tree series, Tucson Fruit Trees, examines the Brown Turkey Fig Tree.  Even though figs are really inverted flowers, I'm still going to call it fruit because it can be eaten straight off the tree. This is one of the most amazing trees to have in the southwest desert.  Not only is it tropical looking in our desert, it's also xeric in nature once established AND  can produce 2 crops a year!   It can grow from a height of 15 feet high to 30 feet high with the same amount regarding its' width.The tree enjoys the hot and dry climate here in Tucson and it's apparent as you can find these trees in many people's yards. It is medium growing.  However some people question whether or not you should plant this tree and here's why......
 It is a messy tree when the fruit falls.  If you don't eat figs or like figs, this tree can be a pain with its' fig litter on the ground....and if it falls on the sidewalk, you will also find that the fruit can stain the cement.
  1.  It can become a massive tree and outgrows its' space quickly.
  2. Birds LOVE this tree.  In the Amazon rainforest, a variety from this tree species attracts local fauna to come and eat its' fruit.  Monkeys, parrots, fruit bats, and many other animals travel miles to come and eat the figs from the tree. Sometimes it's the ONLY food source available.  This is how the tree propogates itself around various parts of the forest and therefore serves as one of the most important trees in the rainforest ecosystem.  Here in the desert southwest, birds, sometimes in the hundreds depending on the size of the tree, will gather in the tree and throw a bird party.  This can be rather annoying to our human counterparts if they are near the house and trying to sleep.  And let's not talk about the bird poo......
  3. Finally, because this tree comes from the ficus family, roots can be invasive so do not plant near the foundation of your house or sidewalk.
Taken from my garden in its' first year!!!  Yes...that quick!
Here's why you should plant a fig.....
  1. If you love birds, this tree attracts.
  2. If you love fresh figs.
  3. If you want shade in a sunny spot, and a sunny spot in's deciduous.
  4. If you are creating a tropical garden in the desert.

These were delicious after putting them in the fridge. I do not like dried fig, but fresh off the tree is another story!!

I rate this tree with a 10 out of 10 score for gardener success, but it may receive a lower score by gardeners who regretted putting this tree into the ground in the first place. For me,  it did well in the summer and it produced fruit its' first year.  It has beautiful lush tropical leaves and the figs were delicious.  Currently it is a very sturdy looking plant (without the leaves) and I cannot wait until it begins to leaf out again in March!  This plant loves sun but give it space to grow.  It's cold hardy to about 5 degrees F and self fertile, producing a spring and sometimes winter crop depending on the winter temps.  It can grow to a height of 50 feet.  There's more to come in this fruit tree world including one that may shock you!!!  Until next time, happy gardening!!! 


  1. My neighbor had a fig tree in her side yard. I learned... that I LOVE LOVE figs! And that I hate the mess from the lovely tree. I often think of getting my own for our backyard - but I think you reminded me why I don't!
    Perhaps I can come visit YOU for my fig habit! I will even clean up under the tree, ONCE!

  2. Two crops a year. That's great. I didn't realize fig trees could get so large or grow so fast. Sounds like the mulberry trees here. Messy, birds love them, spreads, etc.

  3. Fig Trees (Brown Turkey) will grow here in the UK and seem quite hardy although don't usually become very large trees. However, we only get one crop a year and that is if we are lucky! UK gardening books usually recommend planting close to a warm wall and restricting the roots to encourage fruiting. I must admit that I'm not that keen on the taste of figs but I do appreciate their tropical- looking leaves.
    Really interesting post - Thanks

  4. I like them for the tropical looking leaves.:) The mission fig is the most dangerious one to plant around here. It gets super large and quick! So I put the Brown Turkey fig in because supposedly it will only grow about half that size. As for the "2 crops a year", I'll believe it when I see it. I think you have to be in a continual warm climate to have that happen. I only got one crop this year and I think that's I'm going to be getting which may be a good thing:)(Less mess:)


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