Giant-leaved fig/strangler fig (Ficus lutea)

The rainforest follows the law of the jungle

Do you remember how Tarzan would get from one tree to the next? That’s right, by swinging from a vine. However, the makers of the Tarzan movies were no botanists, and mistook the aerial roots of plants for vines. You can see some hanging aerial roots in front of you, and they may awaken your inner Tarzan. But please don’t swing on the roots!

These aerial roots are part of the giant-leaved fig, which has developed an ingenious way of competing for light: it starts from the top! Birds and monkeys spread its seeds through the treetops, where they then germinate. The plant grows its roots towards the ground, simultaneously twisting around the host tree and growing its own leaves on top of the host’s foliage. In a way, the plant strangles the host tree, leaving only the strangler fig. This really is the law of the jungle!  

So, what are vines, then? If you turn around, you will be able to see some vines growing in pots – they are climbing plants which grow from the ground towards the sky.

Aerial roots of a strangler fig.
Aerial roots of a strangler fig.
Leaves of a strangler fig.
Vines growing from the two pots in the middle.