Lyonia:
a journal of ecology and application


Ficus (Fig) species in Nepal: a review of diversity and indigenous uses
Ficus (Fig) species in Nepal: a review of diversity and indigenous uses

Ripu M. Kunwar1* & Rainer W. Bussmann2
1P.O. Box. No. 19225, Kathmandu, Nepal, email: ripu@wlink.com.np
2Harold L. Lyon Arboretum, University of Hawaii at Manoa, USA email: bussmann@hawaii.edu
*corresponding author
Abstract 
Ficus (Fig) species have a wide range of distribution and uses in Nepal. Of the 36 Ficus species native to Nepal, 21 are indigenously used as food, fodder, fuel wood, vegetable, medicine, etc. and some are used religeously in Nepal, and 10 in the closer study area. Ficus religiosa (Pipal), F. benghalensis (Bar), F. benjamina (Sami), F. racemosa (Dumri), especially have a high religious value for both Hindus and Buddhists and are deemed sacred. The indigenous use as medicine is very important. F. benghalensis (Bar) was found as the medicinally most important species , used to treat 22 ailments.
Introduction 

Plants are of utmost interest to the human race and our ancestor also lived on nuts, roots, succulent stems, fruits, and other parts of plants. Today, our existence can still not be imagined without plants. The use and conservation of plants and plant products is rooted in Nepalese culture since time immemorial (Kunwar and Adhikari 2005a). There is a general tendency among villagers in Nepal to preserve useful plants on their own farms (Pokharel 1998).


Fodder plants, long an integral part of farming systems, provide a source of green fodder during the dry season when the decreased forage far exceeds the sustainable supply for livestock (Amatya 1992; Lekhak 1998). Over 300 species of fodder trees are found in Nepal and more than 50% of these are Ficus species (Kunwar 2002), which are being cultivated in and around farmlands. The common Ficus species in cultivation are Ficus hispida (Kharsu), F. semicordata (Khaniyu), F. neriifolia (Dudhilo), F. lacor (Kavro), etc. Their role in Nepal's agriculture is very high, as they provide 40-50% of the animal feed (Pandey 1982). 36 species of Ficus are reported so far from Nepal (Table 1) (HMGN 2001) but a detail investigation of their indigenous uses was never undertaken. The present study therefore explored and collated the indigenous uses of Ficus species in Nepal.


Methods 

Both primary and secondary data were collected. Notes on indigenous uses of plants by the local population were collected from Bardia, Dolpa, Kaski and Kathmandu districts in the central and western part of Nepal. The surveyed study sites range from the tropical zone (250m) to as high as the temperate zone (2950m). Secondary data came from a large range of published and unpublished literature. Plants collected were identified at Tribhuvan University Central Herbarium (TUCH) and specimens are deposited there.


Results and Discussion 


Ficus species are the most interesting group of trees in Nepal, not only of their useful value but also of their growth habits and religious significance. The genus Ficus is an exceptionally large pantropical genus with over 700 species (Berg 1989) and belongs to the family Moraceae. It is retained as a single, large genus because it is well defined by its unique reproductive system, involving Syconia fig- and specialized pollinator wasps (Novotny et al 2002).


Out of 36 species of Ficus found in Nepal, 16 species are reported from the study area in western and central Nepal (Table 1). Their distribution is either restricted to one region or they are common throughout Nepal. 11 species were found only in the Makalu Barun region, Eastern Nepal (Chaudhary et al. 2001), with their altitudinal range higher in subtropical region. Ficus palmata was observed to be restricted in Western Nepal. These species provide good fodder and various ecological services. They provide nectar, refuge habitat for several bird species and a wide variety of insects, and host orchids and mistletoes. Ficus benghalensis, F. benjamina, F. religiosa, F. lacor, F. neriifolia, F. glaberrima are common host plants for orchids (Subedi & Paudyal 2001). Some orchid species are restricted to the tree trunks and branches of Ficus glaberrima. Ficus religiosa, and F. hispida are frequent hosts for mistletoes Scurrula pulverulenta and Dendropthoe falcata (Kunwar et al. 2005).


Ficus religiosa (Peepal), F. benghalensis (Bar), F. benjamina (Sami), F. racemosa (Dumri) etc. possess high religious value for both Hindus and Buddhists (Subedi et al 1998, Shrestha 1999) and are deemed sacred. Ficus religiosa is not uprooted, it grows on shrines and buildings, because it represents the Hindu god lord Vishnu, the god of sustenance. It is widely worshipped as Bodhi tree under which lord Buddha attained enlightenment (Majupuria and Joshi 1989). For antiquity and veneration the Peepal is unrivalled throughout the world. No other tree is claimed to have such long life's part of one in Ceylon, said to have been planted in the year 288 B.C., still lives and flourishes (Cowen 1970).



S.No Species Altitude Habit Distribution
1 Ficus altisima Blume

Tree Himalaya
2 F. abelii Miq.

Tree C
3 F. arnottiana (Miq.) Miq. 850-1500 Small tree EW
4 F. auriculata Lour.* 250-1700 Tree
CW
5 F. benghalensis L.* 500-1200 Tree
CEW
6 F. benjamina L.* 150-1000 Tree
CW
7 F. curtipes Corner 450-600 Small tree E
8 F. drupacea Thunb. 1100 Tree E
9 F. elastica Roxb. ex. Hornem*

Tree C
10 F. geniculata Kurz 650 Tree E
11 F. glaberrima Blume* 600-1500 Tree CW
12 F. hederacea Roxb.* 500-1500 Climber CW
13 F. heterophylla L.f. 300 Shrub W
14 F. hirta Vahl 900 Small tree C
15 F. hispida L.* 450-1100 Small tree CEW
16 F. hookeriana Corner 1800 Small tree E
17 F. lacor Buch.-Ham.* 500 Tree CW
18 F. laevis Blume 300 Tree epiphyte CE
19 F. microcarpa L.f. 300-1100 Tree epiphyte CW
20 F. nepalensis Spreng.

Small tree C
21 F. neriifolia Sm.* 1400-2200 Tree CW
22 F. nervosa Heyne ex Roth 450-600 Tree E
23 F. oligodon Miq.* 1000-1800 Tree CEW
24 F. palmata Forssk* 600-2300 Small tree W
25 F. pubigera (Wall ex Miq.) Brandis

Small tree C
26 F. pumila L.* 1400 Tree
C
27 F. racemosa L.* 300 Tree CW
28 F. religiosa L.* 150-1500 Tree CEW
29 F. rumphii Blume 200 Tree W
30 F. sarmentosa Buch.-Ham. ex Sm.* 1400-2500 Shrub CEW
31 F. semicordata Buch.-Ham. ex Sm.* 200-1700 Tree CE
32 F. squamosa Roxb. 500-600 Shrub CE
33 F. subincisa Buch.-Ham. ex Sm. 300-1800 Tree CEW
34 F. subulata Blume 300 Shrub E
35 F. tinctoria G. Forst.

Shrub W
36 F. virens Aiton 80-200 Tree
E

* Species observed in study area C= Central Nepal, E = East Nepal, W = West Nepal



21 Ficus species are indigenously used in Nepal for various purposes. Of 21 Ficus species, 16 species are used as ethnomedicine and five species (F. glaberrima, F. hederacea, F. hookeriana, F. oligodon and F. virens) are used only as fodder and fuelwood. Only 10 species (Ficus auriculata, F. benghalensis, F. benjamina, F. hederacea, F. hispida, F. palmata, F racemosa, F. religiosa, F sermentosa, and F. semicordata) are reported to be extensively used in study area. The use of Ficus species as ethnomedicine in Nepal is quite noteworthy (Kunwar & Adhikari 2005b). F. benghalensis (Bar) is most important, used to heal 22 ailments. For enumeration, taxa are arranged alphabetically. Vernacular names are given in italics, followed by synonyms and ethnobotanical uses.





Vernacular names: Kaitak - Chepang; Eve's apron, Roxburgh fig - English; Paingi - Gurung; Tirmal, Timla - Hindi; Poyepa - Limbu; Anjir, Nimaro, Gopa, Timila, Bhutuk - Nepali; Mago - Tamang.
Syn. Ficus roxburghii, F. macrophylla
Uses: Fodder and edible (Gajurel et al. 1987; Shrestha 1988b; Shakya 1992; Muller-Boker 1993; Chapa 1994; Kaundinya 1998; Manandhar & Acharya 2003; Nepal & Sapkota 2005).
Leaves are crushed and the paste is applied on the wounds (Shrestha & Dhillion 2003). They are also used in diarrhea and dysentery (Manandhar 1991b). Leaves are used for making plates for festive banquets (Chhetry 1996). Stem bark juice is effective for diarrhea (Bhattarai 1992, 1993b), cuts and wounds. Roasted figs are taken for diarrhea and dysentery (CECI 2004). Root latex is used in mumps (Oli 2001), cholera, diarrhea and vomiting (Devkota & Karmacharya 2003; Pant & Panta 2004). Mixture of root powder of F. auriculata and bark of Oroxylum indicum is taken in jaundice.



Vernacular names: Bar - Bhojpuri; Bar - Chepang; Bar - Danuwar; Banyan tree - English; Bar - Gurung; Bargad, Watam - Hindi; Kungiyi - Lepcha; Lara - Limbu; Paramsing - Magar; Bar - Mooshar; Bar - Nepali; Bara, Dariyongma - Rai; Avaroha, Bahupada, Bhringi, Jatalo, Vat - Sanskrit; Banidare - Satar; Bargadh - Tharu; Ni-gro-dha - Tibetan.
Syn. Ficus indica, Urostigma benghalensis
Uses: Edible, fodder, fuelwood and ceremonial (Manandhar 1972; HMGN 1982; Tiwari 1983; Siwakoti et al. 1997; Bhatta 1999; Ghimire et al. 2000; Pandey 2000; Sah et al. 2002; Nepal & Sapkota 2005).
Stem bark is used as antihelminthic. It is used for diarrhea, dysentery, diabetes, cuts and wounds, joint pain, cracked heel and toe (Sarkar 1994; Siwakoti & Varma 1996; Karna 1997; Shakya et al. 1999; Joshi & Joshi 2001; Panthi & Chaudhary 2003). Stem bark of F. benghalensis, root of Asparagus racemosus, fruits of Annona squamata, and shoot of Colebrookea oppositifolia are crushed and eaten on empty stomach to cure urinary problems (Paudyal 2000). Bark decoction is taken as antidote (Thapa 2001), used in epitaxis (Bhattarai 1993c) and stomachache. Boiled bark is employed in cold, cough and asthma. Milky sap from bark is used for diarrhea, dysentery, indigestion, joint pain (Shakya 2000), dermatitis, gum swelling, gonorrhea, and snake bite. It is valued to take out pus of wounds (Manandhar 1986) and is mixed with sugar to give to children suffering dysentery (Yadav 1999). The latex is also used for polishing copper, brass and bronze (Vihari 1995). Leaves latex causes allergy to children (Dangol 2002).
Aerial root juice is used for stopping menstruation and applied externally for body pain, toothache, diabetes, joint pain (Mishara 1998) and rheumatism (Kharel & Siwakoti 2002). Root bark powder is mixed with Desmostachys bipinnata (Kush) and sugar and considered to control leucorrhoea. Root latex treats boils and wounds (Parajuli 2001; Siwakoti et al. 2005) and obstinates vomiting (Chopra et al. 1956). The decoction from aerial roots and water obtained from rice wash is used in diarrhea.



Vernacular names: Golden fig, Java fig - English; Pukar - Hindi; Sami, Sarane, Swami - Nepali; Banij - Sanskrit; Jhinpatiya - Tharu.
Syn. Ficus comosa, F. nuda
Uses: Ceremonial and fodder (Singh 1968; Thapa et al. 1997; Parajuli 2000; Bhattarai 2002).
Twigs are used as insect repellant by keeping them under the beds (Bhandary & Shrestha 1986). Leaf juice is used as flea and bug repellant (Shrestha 1985). Latex is applied on boils.



Vernacular names: Pakhuri - Nepali.
Syn. Ficus angustifolia
Uses: Fodder, edible and fuelwood (Upadhyay 1992; Tiwari 1994; Kaundinya 1998; Manandhar 2002). Ceremonial (Rijal 1994; Pokhrel 1998; Pandey 2000; Panthi and Chaudhary 2002).



Vernacular names: Dudhe lahara - Nepali.
Syn. Ficus fruticosa, F. scandens
Uses: Fodder (Dangol and Gurung 1995; Manandhar 2002).
Inner bark is used for temporary binding (Manandhar 2002).



Vernacular names: Khoksa - Danuwar; Khasreto - Nepali; Khahatya - Raute.
Syn. Ficus hirsuta, F. triloba
Uses: Edible (Manandhar 2002). Stem latex is used for wounds (Manandhar 1990a, 1990b). Stem bark is boiled and its gel is used in fever (Manandhar 1998b).



Vernacular names: Kautaik - Chepang; Kothayo - Darai; Hairy fig - English; Khasre, Thotne - Gurung; Kathumber, Daduri - Hindi; Bhutu - Magar; Kharsu, Khasreto, Tote, Koksa, Kothedumar - Nepali; Seta podo - Satar; Mogu - Tamang; Khur hur, Kharaha, Kothaiya - Tharu.
Syn. Ficus caudiculata, F. daemanum, F. daemonum, F. prominens
Uses: Fodder and edible (HMGN 1982; Shrestha 1990; Amatya 1991; Dhakal & Aizz 1996; Amatya 1999; Kunwar 2002; Manandhar & Acharya 2003; Bishokarma et al. 2005; Khatri 2005).
Leaf juice is taken for earache (Basnet 1998). Fumes from twigs are used against earache (Dangol & Gurung 1995; Ghimire et al. 2000) and liver troubles. Fruit, seed and bark are emetic and purgative in nature (Kharel & Siwakoti 2002). Root juice is used for fever (Manandhar 1993).



Syn. Ficus hookeri
Uses: Fodder (Manandhar 1972b, Lekhak 1998).



Vernacular names: Kushi - Danuwar; Kabro - Darai; Elephant fig, Java fig - English; Khatarumba - Limbu; Kapara - Magar; Kavro, Gular, Pakadi - Nepali; Chaspou, Chokchi - Rai; Katho, Nakkali - Tamang; Rikhi - Thami; Kapro - Tharu.
Syn. Ficus infestoria
Uses: Ceremonial, edible and fodder. Young buds (Surulo) are used in making pickles (Shrestha 1983; Amatya & Rajbhandary 1991; Tiwari 1994; Shakya et al. 1995; Thapa 2000).
Stem bark is used in gastric and ulcer (Bajracharya et al. 1978; Bhattarai et al. 2000; Pandey 2001; Rai et al. 2004). Milky latex of stem is used in typhoid and heavy fever, dysentery (Oli 2001) and boils. Decoction of buds is considered for ulcer and leucorrhoea (Chopra et al. 1956; HMG 1970), gargle in salivation (Malla 1994), boils (Manandhar 1985), pimples and blisters. Dried buds are used to treat harsa (Nakarmi 2001). Seeds are tonic in nature and used in treatment of stomach disorder (Bhatt 1977).



Vernacular names: Cheksi - Chepang; Ghara, Gnta, Tauchhi - Gurung; Khepsewa - Limbu; Dudhilo, Dudhe - Nepali; Ngerpou, Didulang, Wakasi - Rai; Nunuthi - Thami; Mago, Grebanam, Nedhar, Nelam - Tamang.
Syn. Ficus nemoralis, F. gemella, F. trilepis, F. fieldingii, F. binata
Uses: Fodder and fuelwood (Singh 1968; Shrestha 1985; Shrestha 1989; Upton 1990; Kapali 1992; Shakya 1992; Chhetry 1996; Nepal 1999; Thapa 2000; Niraula 2001; Manandhar 2002; Panthi and Chaudhary 2002; Gurung 2003; Turin 2003; Manandhar and Acharya 2003; Rajbhandary and Dhakal 2003).

Stem bark juice is given in conjunctivitis and boils (Manandhar 2001, 2002).



Vernacular names: Namsi - Chepang; Nimaro - Nepali, Waspou - Rai; Kholtu, Chanadumri - Tharu.
Syn. Ficus hamiltoniana, F. pomifera
Uses: Edible (Muller-Boker 1993; Rijal 1994; Shrestha et al 2003).
Fodder (Nepal 1999; Karki 2001; Chaudhary et al 2001; Shrestha and Kunwar 2003).



Vernacular names: Anjir - Hindi; Kappa - Magar; Bendu, Anjir, Timilo, Beru, Bedu - Nepali.
Syn. Ficus caricoides, F. virgata
Uses: Edible, fodder and fuelwood (HMGN 1982; Bhatta 1999; Panthi & Chaudhary 2002).
Fruit paste is used in ringworm and skin diseases (Thapa 2001). Ripe fruits are used in dysentery and vomiting (Devkota & Karmacharya 2003; Pant & Panta 2004). Stem latex is applied to extract spines deeply lodged in the flesh (Manandhar 1995, 2002).



Vernacular names: Golden fig-English; Sami-Nepali
Syn. Ficus retusa
Uses: Leaf extracts is used as insecticide against housefly (Franenkel 1959; Sahu 1997).



Vernacular names: Dumri - Bankariya; Gular - Danuwar; Cluster fig - English; Dumri, Gular - Nepali; Loa - Satar; Udumbara - Sanskrit; Gullar, Gullri - Tharu.
Syn. Ficus glomerata, F. goolereea
Uses: Fodder, edible and ceremonial (Manandhar 1972; HMGN 1982; Dhakal & Aizz 1996; Chaudhary et al. 1999; Pathak 2000; Priya 2000; Sah et al. 2002; Manandhar & Acharya 2003).
Milky juice of stem is used to cure stomachache (Ghimire et al. 2000), cholera and mumps (Basnet 1998). It is used in boils, diarrhea, dysentery and piles (Yadav 1999). Root sap cures heat stroke, chronic wounds and malaria in cattle (Thapa 2001). Leaf latex and cow milk are mixed and used for boils and blisters (Siwakoti & Siwakoti 2000) and measles. Leaf juice is massaged in hair to check splitting. Infusion of leaves is used in menorrhoea. Fruit paste is applied in regulating diarrhea and constipation (Vihari 1995). Seed paste is taken in measles and smallpox (Acharya 1996) and diarrhea (Singh 1994). Paste of stem bark is taken in burns, swelling and leucorrhoea (Paudyal 2000), dysentery, diarrhea and used as astringent (Tiwari 2001). The powder from stem bark is used in curing boils and secretion of milk for lactating mother. Latex is used as adhesive (Dangol 2002).





Vernacular names: Pipal - Bhojpuri; Pipal - Chepang; Pipar - Danuwar; Pipal, Bo tree, Peepal tree - English; Pipal - Gurung; Pipal, Pipali - Hindi; Tongiyar - Lepcha; Pendi, Pirimsing - Limbu; Pipal - Magar; Pipar - Mooshar; Pipal - Nepali; Ashawatha, Bodhidruma, Pippala, Suchudruma, Vrikshraj, Yajnika - Sanskrit; Pipal - Tamang; Pipra - Tharu; Bo-de-tsa - Tibetan.
Uses: Edible, ceremonial, fodder and fuelwood (Manandhar 1972; Upadhyay 1992; Acharya 1999; Parajuli 2000; Rajbhandary & Dhakal 2003; Khatri 2005).
Leaf juice and honey is applied on asthma, cough, sexual disorders (Yadav 1999; Gurung 2002), diarrhoea (Bhattarai 1993b), haematuria (Jain et al. 1991), earache and toothache (Muller Boker 1999; Kharel & Siwakoti 2002), migraine (Mandar & Chaudhary 1993), eye troubles (Tiwari 2001), gastric problems (Kattel & Kurmi 2004) and scabies. Leaf decoction is used as analgesic for toothache. Fruits are eaten to facilitate asthma (Bhattarai 1993a) and respiratory system. Fruit paste is taken to cure scabies (Siwakoti et al. 2005). Stem bark is used in gonorrhoea (Joshi & Joshi 2000), bleeding (Shrestha 1997; Dangol 2002), cuts, wounds (Manandhar 1998a), paralysis, diabetes (Thapa 2001), diarrhea, bone fracture (Karki 2001) and used as antiseptic, astringent and antidote. Bark infusion is taken in scabies. Bark juice taken with Dolichus biflorus (Ghahata in Nepali and Karthi in Tharu) is used to reduce fever in cattle (Chaudhary 1994). Paste of bark is taken with honey to treat cough and cold as well as accompanying mild fever. Aerial root juice is used for menustral problems (Manandhar 1998b).



Vernacular names: Wagrans - Chepang; Kathepipal, Paharepipal - Nepali; Pekle, Dango - Tamang.
Syn. Ficus cordifolia,
Uses: Fodder (Manandhar 2002). Foot and mouth disease of cattle is treated by feeding F. rumphii (Manandhar 1992, 2002).



Vernacular names: Dumri - Darai; Aagjara - Magar; Berulo, Gai berulo, Bantimila - Nepali; Mogu - Tamang.
Syn. Ficus foveolata, F. luducca
Uses: Edible (Manandhar 1980, 1991a, 2002; Shrestha 1988a, b; Dangol and Gurung 2000).
Bark powder is taken to cure boils and secrete more milk during delivery.
Root extract is used in malaria (Dangol and Gurung 2000).



Vernacular names: Kokshi - Chepang; Khurhur - Danuwar; Nepal fodder fig, Red earth fig, Wedgeleaf fig - English; Khajare - Gurung; Kokse, Yangkhoppa - Limbu; Aarkhot - Magar; Khaniyu - Nepali; Khuksi, Khokpou - Rai; Kho - Raute; Hor podo - Satar; Koshing - Tamang; Khurburia, Khurkhuri - Tharu.
Syn. Ficus cunia, F. conglomerata
Uses: Fodder and edible (Singh 1968; Bajracharya et al. 1978; Maskey & Shah 1982; Karki 1994; Khan 1997; Bhatta 1999; Rajbhandary & Dhakal 2003; Shrestha & Kunwar 2003; Uprety 2005).
The use of latex to cure boils is so ancient that it is also reported from the Holy Bible. A bath made from the fruit and bark is a cure for leprosy. Latex is drunk to cure fever (Rijal 1994). Raw fruits are eaten in diarrhea (Bhattarai 2002). Young fruit juice is applied in forehead to relieve headache (Manandhar 1998b). Young twigs are fed to cattle for facilitating the discharge of placenta (Dangol & Gurung 1995). Fume of twigs is used in earache (Muller-Boker 1993). Bark of Ficus semicordata, Schima wallichii, Syzygium cumini, Phyllanthus emblica and Mangifera indica are pounded and given in ulcer and gastric (Manandhar 1993). Root paste is taken to cure headache.



Vernacular names: Cheksi - Chepang; Kane chhi - Gurung; Belda - Lohar; Birula, Lekho - Magar; Bedulo, Bello, Aankhpakuwa - Nepali; Lomago, Soror - Tamang.
Syn. Ficus chincha, Ficus clavata, F. caudata, F. trachycarpa
Uses: Long term feeding results eye infection. Seed is antihelminthic (Devkota and Karmacharya 2003; Pant and Panta 2004).
Leafy biomass 60-80 Kg/Yr, Crude protein 18 % (Amatya et al 1994), 15.2% (Malla 2004).
Fodder, Fuelwood (Pandey 1982, Shrestha 1985, Shrestha 1988a, Shrestha 1988b, Rijal 1994, Amatya et al 1994, Pokhrel 1998, Pandey 2000, Manandhar 2002; Panthi and Chaudhary 2002, Manandhar and Acharya 2003).



Vernacular names: White fig, sour fig, grey fig - English; Pilkhan - Hindi; Pakar - Nepali; Pakhar - Satar.
Syn. Ficus infectoria
Uses: Foliage buds are eaten as vegetable and pickle (Siwakoti et al 1997).



Vernacular names: Dhungre, Ghansbar - Nepali; Paphu - Rai.
Uses: Plant is used as fodder (Pandey 1982).
Leaves are used for making plates use in ceremony (Nepal 1999). Plant is useful as food for butterfly larvae (Cyrestis thyodamus - Common map, Euploea core - Common Indian crow) (Khanal & Bhandary 1982).


Acknowledgements 

The authors are grateful to the Tourism for Rural Poverty Alleviation Program (TRPAP), Kathmandu; Herbs Production, Processing and Company Limited (HPPCL), Kathmandu; Natural History Museum, Kathmandu and Zoological Society of London (ZSL), London for their help. Thanks are also due to the local people of the Dolpa and Bardia districts for providing valuable information about the uses of plants.


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