Strangler figs include several species of trees that share a “strangling” growth habit that makes them particularly well adapted to growing in dense forests where competition for light is extreme. They are hemiepiphytes, which means that they grow around other trees for structure and obtain nutrients and moisture from the air, and then eventually establish roots in the ground. Their seeds, which are often dispersed by birds, get lodged in the canopy of other trees, germinate there, and send their roots downward, enveloping the support tree in a mass of intertwined roots. Eventually the strangler fig develops its own underground root system, becoming independent of the support tree.
When Ross was here studying two years ago, he became acquainted with one particularly enormous strangler fig in Santa Elena, about a half hour walk from the study center. Today we went back to see it and found that it had been blown over by the wind. We jumped on the opportunity to crawl inside the trunk and in the canopy and see what we could find. We strapped the camera on Marty’s head as she climbed deep inside the strangler fig and voilà! We bring the tree to you. Enjoy!