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This large family, which includes the figs (Ficus), is almost cosmopolitan except for cold temperate regions. In Australia it is principally tropical and subtropical, reaching eastern Victoria on the east coast, and into Central Australia where permanent water is found in ranges and rocky gorges.

Characteristic features of the family Moraceae in Australia include:

  • mostly shrubs or trees with milky sap
  • leaves usually alternate, entire and often with large, spathe-like, deciduous stipules
  • flowers unisexual in dense, single- or mixed- sex inflorescences
  • male flowers of 4 or fewer stamens opposite 4 more or less fused tepals; 4 tepals of the female flower often much reduced so that the bicarpellary ovary is prominent; stigmas bifid and often obliquely placed
  • fruits usually compound (except Antiaris), with some part of the inflorescence becoming fleshy


Evergreen or deciduous trees, or shrubs, or woody or herbaceous vines climbing by twining stems or hooks, or epiphytes, or rarely terrestrial herbs. Stems unarmed or rarely with thorns or spines arising from the leaf axils; nodes conspicuously swollen or not. Internal secretions not obvious, or of milky sap (latex), coloured sap or resin. Plants glabrous, or with simple, non-glandular, unicellular hairs. Leaves alternate and spiral, or distichous, rarely opposite, cauline if herbs, petiolate. Stipules distinct and free from the petiole, ochreate, encircling the petiole base, intrapetiolar or interpetiolar, scale-like, membranous or bristle-like, falling off early or persistent. Lamina simple, symmetric or conspicuously asymmetric, palmatifid or palmatisect, lanceolate, ovate, elliptic, oblanceolate, obovate or oblong; base cuneate, attenuate, rounded, cordate, hastate, sagittate or oblique; margins entire, crenate, dentate or sinuate, ±flat; venation pinnate, or palmate, with the midrib conspicuous, and the tertiary venation reticulate or not; surfaces not punctate; leathery or rarely herbaceous. Domatia absent or consisting of pits, pockets or hair tufts in the vein angles. Male and female flowers occurring on the same plant or on separate plants. Inflorescences axillary, cauliflorous or ramiflorous, consisting of capitula, syconia (figs), glomerules, catkins or hypanthodia, spikes, racemes or panicles. Bracts and bracteoles absent. Pollination by insects or wind. Flowers odourless; sessile or stalked. Epicalyx present or absent. Perianth regular, of 1 whorl only, with 2–5 (–8), free or fused, sepaloid or petaloid segments, imbricate or valvate in bud, cream or green, without contrasting markings, membranous. Fertile stamens 8, opposite to and free of the perianth segments, free of the ovary and style, distinct from each other, all ±equal. Anthers dorsifixed, versatile or not versatile, opening outwards or inwards by longitudinal slits, 2-celled; with appendages absent or apical. Ovary superior and sessile, part-inferior or inferior. Carpels 1–2, fused; ovary with 1 locule. Style terminal, single and unbranched, or single and branched above. Ovule 1, sessile; placentation apical or parietal. Fruit sometimes composite, dry or fleshy, indehiscent; an achene, drupe, sorosis (fleshy multiple fruit, e.g. mulberry) or syconium (e.g. fig). Disseminule micro-surface ±smooth or verrucose, white, cream, yellow, orange, red, magenta, purple, violet, green, brown, grey or black, without contrasting markings, or conspicuously patterned, glossy or dull. Seeds 1–numerous per fruit. Aril absent. Cotyledons 2. Embryo straight or curved.
(Note: this description has been generated from the coded data compiled for the key. Any errors in the key data will be reflected in the descriptions.)

A treatment of the family Moraceae has been published in:
Flora of Australia 3: 15-68.

Australian genera of Moraceae (as recognised for the Flora of Australia)

† = some species native, others introduced
* = all species introduced


Ficus coronata (fruits)
Photo: H.Nicholson © H. & N. Nicholson 

Ficus crassipes (branch tip showing large stipular sheath)
Photo: H.Nicholson © H. & N. Nicholson 

Ficus crassipes (fruits)
Photo: M.Fagg © ANBG 

Ficus macrophylla ssp. columnaris (fruits)
Photo: M.Fagg © ANBG