Mystery Fig Number One: Can you identify this fig variety?

Can you identify this mystery fig? It has small, reddish-purple, intensely sweet fruits, and they’ve been ripening in June, a month ahead of most fig varieties around here.

There’s something about figs – people just lose track of their variety names. Fig trees are easy to start from cuttings, so when people find a good one, they multiply it and give it out to friends and neighbors. But if the parent fig tree had a variety name, its baby trees go out into the world, more often than not, without that name.

As a result, there are lots of fig trees that I find growing in people’s yards here in Florida with excellent fruit, but the owner doesn’t know what variety it is. (Or if they do know a name, someone told them it’s a ‘Turkey’ fig, or ‘Brown Turkey’ fig  –  lots of clearly different fig varieties get called by those names.)

When I’ve collected these cultivars and added them to my collection, I’ve given them temporary, provisional names, like ‘Mary’s Fig,’ or ‘Eric’s Purple Fig,’ just to keep track which one it is and where it came from, but I’m sure most or all of these are actual, named varieties.

Mystery Fig Number One has a compact, spreading growth habit, with densely foliaged branches. Compare it to the open, spreading habit of the fig trees in the background.

I’m still at the very early stages of learning to identify fig trees by the characteristics of fruit and foliage – part of the problem is that I have so few actual, known fig varieties to work from – even fig cultivars I’ve gotten from other fruit tree enthusiasts, which came with variety names, have often turned out not to match the published characteristics of that variety. (Like a batch of ‘LSU Purple’ fig cuttings I got which turned out to make brown fruits. Hmmm….)

Another thing I find tricky when I try to compare the leaf shape of a mystery fig to the leaf shapes published of fig varieties: the leaves vary tremendously in shape from leaf to another leaf, all on the same tree.

So I decided to try crowd-source it, posting pictures and descriptions of some of my mystery fig varieties, to see if any fig experts can help figure out their proper names. Here’s the first one.

This mystery fig is growing at my neighbor’s place – several years ago he got a number of unlabeled figs, and planted them out. Fruits on this tree are small, elongated, with a long neck, a closed eye, and reddish-purple colored inside and out. At maturity the fruits droop and develop a series of fine cracks on the skin.

Leaf shape is quite variable on this tree (as it is on most fig trees). Here are the fruits, and the range of variation in leaf shape on this one tree.

Flavor is extremely sweet and concentrated when the fruits are fully ripe, almost like fruit-flavored honey, or strawberry jam. Any unharvested fruits have a tendency to hang on and start to dry out on the plant, even in our rainy, hot, humid summer weather here in Florida.

The fruits on this tree have been ripening during June, a month ahead of most of the fig varieties around here.

I discussed this variety with a gardener in Australia on Instagram, and he suggested that it might possibly be the variety ‘Black Genoa’.  I’ve looked up that variety, and it certainly does look like a possibility. Some of the pictures of fruits labeled ‘Black Genoa’ fruits I see online look just like these. But some of the pictures show a fruit that’s much more rounded, like a slightly flattened sphere, with almost no neck. I don’t know if the fruit shape of ‘Black Genoa’ could vary that much based on growing conditions, or maybe there are actually different varieties people are calling that name.  Another thing I notice is that all the references I see to this variety are from people in Australia, so I don’t know if ‘Black Genoa’ is in North America.

This is a really good fig cultivar, and I want to know its proper name. If you have any suggestions as to what variety this fig is, I’d really appreciate some help identifying it.


6 thoughts on “Mystery Fig Number One: Can you identify this fig variety?

    1. Hi John, thanks for stopping by my site and commenting! It’s funny, I used to work at a mail-order nursery in Massachusetts in the 1990s that propagated and sold several fig varieties, and one of them was Green Ischia. So it was one of the first fig varieties I ever encountered. But I don’t think those potted Green Ischia plants ever made a a fruit that I got to try. And to this day I don’t think I’ve ever had a Green Ischia fig (unless a local green-fruited fig variety turns out to actually be that variety). Your recommendation of this variety makes me want to try it.

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      1. Thank you so much for helping me sort this out. It’s so helpful being able to get information from knowledgeable fig enthusiasts like this. Stay tuned, I’ll be posting about more local ‘mystery figs’ over the coming weeks as they ripen, and I’ll really appreciate assistance identifying them.

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    1. Thank you! And thanks to Ross. That’s very helpful. The issue that it brings up for me is that there is a common local fig variety that I see around here a lot, and I thought I had identified it as ‘Celeste’, but it’s definitely different from the variety described in this post, with figs that are a little more brown, I think with a slightly shorter neck, and probably a few other slight differences. That variety is one of the other ‘local mystery figs’ I was planning to post about. So ff the one in this post one is Celeste, maybe that other variety is actually Southern Brown Turkey. When it ripens in few weeks, I’ll post about it. Thanks for helping me to sort it out!

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