Ficus microcarpa 'Tigerbark'

  Tigerbark Chinese Banyan
by Jerry Meislik


I am doing a number of workshops and demonstrations this year using the Tigerbark fig, Ficus microcarpa, variety Tigerbark. I am writing this article since there is not much in writing about this tree and in order to acquaint my audience with this wonderful bonsai material.

The Tigerbark fig is a selected clone of Ficus microcarpa. It is so called because of the whitish spots and stripes arranged on the underlying green to light green-brown bark color.

Tigerbark with stripes and spots on light green-brown bark. Notice the color is more visible on the wet lower root. The dry bark of the rest of the tree looks almost uniformly grey.


Gray bark of "normal" Ficus microcarpa. When wet it has some white spots and short white lines.


Dark grey-brown bark of a different "regular" Ficus microcarpa. White spots are more visible on the wet lower brownish bark. Again, dry bark looks uniformly grey.


The background bark color of all Chinese Banyan's varies considerably from clone to clone. The whitish spots on the bark of the Tigerbark are more numerous and prominent, thus giving rise to the common name of Tigerbark fig.

On a visit to Taiwan I saw the original plant called Tigerbark. The tree is a superb specimen of spectacular design. It is said to have been discovered there some 35-40 years ago and is also called Kingman or Kin Men. It is important to realize that the bark pattern, leaf size and texture of all types of Ficus microcarpa is very variable. Trees derived from seed show all sorts of leaf and bark variations and thus may show all sorts of varying Tigerbark character. I have seen several different figs called Tigerbark and they show different bark background color, degree of white spots and lines, flexibility of branches and many variations in leaf size, shape and texture.

I have been working with two plants that I acquired some years ago labeled as Tigerbark as well as newer Tigerbarks acquired from Jim Smith . Jims Smith's trees have a light grey-green bark color with whitish spots and lines and are identical with the original Taiwan Tigerbark. My first Tigerbark figs do not resemble the original Taiwan Tigerbark and have a dark brown bark with white spots and lines. I no longer consider them as true Tigerbarks.

Two difficulties arise in determining the bark color on figs. One, it is quite common for the trunk of a fig to acquire a patina of moss or mold. This will usually darken the bark color. Before making a decision on your tree's true bark color, use a toothbrush to buff the trunk and see if the color is altered by mold, algae or dirt. If so, it can be cleaned with a toothbrush, if desired. Two, bark color on many figs will seem uniformly grey but after a good wetting the bark's true color and any spots or stripes will be more apparent.

Other Characteristics of the Tigerbark fig

In all respects the Tigerbark behaves pretty much as the regular Chinese Banyan. Tigerbark may be a stronger grower than the normal Chinese Banyan and like the normal Chinse Banyan, forms aerial roots with relative ease.

Soil, watering and care for the Tigerbark are the same as for all Ficus species. Make sure that the soil is moist and never allowed to be sopping wet for long and give them as much light as possible.

Scale is the only common pest problem and this can be handled with dormant oil sprays.

I hope you enjoy your adventure with the Tigerbark fig, and I am looking forward to working with you on your Tigerbark fig.

For more general information on figs check:

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