Namaqua rock fig

The Namaqua rock fig (Ficus cordata) is found in arid areas along the western side of South Africa (especially in the Succulent Karoo and Nama Karoo) and into Namibia. It is described in the Namibian Tree Atlas as a graceful tree, often drooping with light grey smooth bark which can look white at a distance. The leathery leaves are a dull grey-green in colour. Usually growing to a height of around 8 metres, the Namaqua rock fig occurs in small groups on hill slopes, along dry rivers, on rocky outcrops and in kloof and gorges. It grows on rock and can be found on very steep slopes – even growing on cliffs. To see more close-up photos of this tree – and of a group of trees growing on a cliff, see this Figweb page.

I cannot believe that a tree this large can grow so successfully in such arid conditions!

Namaqua rock fig (Ficus cordata) growing on a rocky outcrop. ©Karl-Heinz Niemand

©Karl-Heinz Niemand

©Karl-Heinz Niemand

Other posts in the Namaqualand and Tankwa Karoo series include:

Thank you to Karl-Heinz Niemand for allowing me to use his photographs for this post.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Categories: Nature/Environment


I live on the Southern coast of South Africa, and write about the things that interest, amuse or inspire me. You can find me at and (my photoblog)


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12 Comments on “Namaqua rock fig”

  1. November 26, 2012 at 4:57 pm #

    Beautiful!! I love the leathery leaves and I’m specially grateful for the up=close look at the base of the trunk … it really is spectacularly adaptive to be growing directly out of the rock like that. Thanks for sharing!!! (I always read your posts, but sorry I haven’t commented lately… just want you to know I’m always a fan!)

    • November 27, 2012 at 7:27 am #

      Thanks Betty! The feeling is mutual – I love your blog.

      I read somewhere that these trees can be associated with springs, so I wonder if by growing their roots through cracks in the rock they are able to access the water reserves below the surface.

  2. Eha
    November 27, 2012 at 1:50 am #

    Beautiful photos of a type of fig I had not previously ‘met’ The tree and branch shape are similar tho’ more sparse than our famed Moreton Bay fig – I cannot quite compare the leaf shape: also very alike, it seems. I have two beloved Moretons in my back garden: unfortunately they do grow huge and send out damaging roots in all directions 🙂 !

    • November 27, 2012 at 7:33 am #

      Just looked for an image online – Moreton Bay figs are really beautiful and impressive trees! All fig trees seem to have very large, strong root systems which can damage building etc.

  3. November 27, 2012 at 2:10 am #

    Fascinating, Lisa. Like my friend Betty, I especially love the last photo. Hope your week is getting off to a good start!

    • November 27, 2012 at 7:36 am #

      Thanks Kathy! It must have been very difficult for Karl-Heinz to get a good close-up shot because of the intense light – there was a lot of reflection off the tree trunk and the rock. But one has to see it to believe it!

  4. November 27, 2012 at 3:00 am #

    Nature always astounds me. I would have never guessed that tree would be able to grow on a rock outcropping.
    Is it the kind of fig tree that bears fruit?

  5. November 27, 2012 at 8:14 am #

    It’s very impressive that a tree can grow out of a rock like that – what an amazing root system!

    • November 28, 2012 at 7:42 am #

      They obviously exploit any weaknesses in the rock. As Eha mentioned above, other species of fig trees which are grown in gardens, can cause a lot of damage to buildings and walls.

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