The Strangler Fig

In Mexico and the tropical zones of South America a so-called “strangler” fig grows in abundance. The Spanish-speaking people refer to it as the “matapalo” which means “the tree killer.” The fruit is not palatable except to cattle and the fowls of the air. After the birds eat it, they must clean their beaks of the sticky residue. They do this by rubbing them on nearby trees. The seeds of the small fig have a natural glue which makes them adhere to the branches. When the rainy season arrives, germination takes place. Soon tiny roots make their way down into the heart of the wood and begins to grow. Within a few years the once lovely palms have been entirely covered with the entangling vines of the parasitic growth. Unless the tree is set free through the removal of these “strangler” figs, it finally begins to wither, dropping one frond after another until it is completely lifeless. The only was to stop the killing process is for someone to take a sharp knife and cut away the invader.

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