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Family Moraceae
Ficus altissima
Gao shan rong

Scientific names Common names
Ficus altissima Blume            Balete (Tagalog)
Ficus altissima var. laccifera (Roxb.) Prain            Nonok (Bis.)
Ficus altissima f. laccifera (Roxb.) King            Council tree (Engl.)
Ficus lacifera Roxb.            False banyan (Engl.)
Ficus latifolia Oken            Lofty fig (Engl.)
Urostigma altissimum (Blume) Miq.             
Urostigma lacciferum (Roxb.) Miq.             
Balete as common name is shared by many Ficus species in the Philippines.
Ficus altissima Blume is an accepted species. KEW: Plants of the World Online

Other vernacular names
ASSAMESE: Atha-dimoru, Dhop, Dhup, Dhop-bor, Gadgubar, Gadhu-bor, Mon dimaru.
CHINA: Gao shan rong.
INDONESIA: Waringin daun besar, Waringin cempedak.
MYANMAR: Nyaung moat seit.
THAILAND: Kraang, Sai thong, Lung.
VIETNAM: Da tia, Da rat cao.

Gen info
- Ficus is a genus of about 850 species of woody trees, shrubs, vines, epiphytes and hemiepiphytes in the family Moraceae. They are collectively known as fig trees or figs, native throughout the tropics with some species extending to semi-warm temperate zone. (7)
- Ficus altissima is a species of flowering plant, a fig tree in the family Moraceae
. It is a large, stately evergreen epiphyte and is native to southeastern Asia.
- It was described by Dutch botanist Carl Ludwig Blume in 1826 from Java.
- Ficus altissima is a 'strangler fig", often starting as an epiphyte on trees or plants, sending roots to the ground, which grow stout and strong to support the growing tree independently. (4)

Ficus altissima is a strangling fig tree, epiphytic when young, 20-50 m tall. Leaves coriaceous; stipules 4-5 cm long, short-hairy; petiole 3-8 cm long; blade broadly ovate to oblong, 13-25 cm x 4.5-16 cm, base obtuse or rounded, apex shortly acuminate, smooth, with 6-10 pairs of lateral veins. Fruit an axillary syconium, in pairs when young, 2.5-3 cm x 1.5-2 cm, orange or orange-red, with persistent basal bracts. (1)

Ficus altissima is a tree, 25-30 m tall, d.b.h. 40-90 cm. Bark gray, smooth. Branchlets green, ca. 1 cm thick, pubescent. Stipules 2-3 cm, thickly leathery, with gray silky hairs. Petiole robust, 2-5 cm; leaf blade broadly ovate to broadly ovate-elliptic, 10-19 × 8-11 cm, thickly leathery, glabrous, base broadly cuneate, margin entire, apex obtuse, acute; basal lateral veins long, secondary veins 5-7 on each side of midvein, reticulate venation clearly defined in dry leaf. Figs axillary on leafy branchlets, paired, red or yellow when mature, ellipsoid-ovoid, 1.7-2.8 cm, sometimes pubescent when very young, glabrous when mature, apical pore navel-like, convex, sessile; involucral bracts hoodlike, covering young fig, caducous, apex broadly obtuse, scar ringlike. Male, gall, and female flowers within same fig. Male flowers: scattered; calyx lobes 4, transparent, membranous; stamen 1. Gall flowers: sepals 4; style subapical, long. Female flowers: sessile; sepals 4; style elongated. Achenes tuberculate. (Flora of China)

- Native to the Philippines.
- Also native to Andaman Is., Assam, Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Hainan, Himalaya, India, Jawa, Laos, Malaya, Myanmar, Nepal, Nicobar Is., Sri Lanka, Sulawesi, Sumatera, Thailand, Vietnam. (2)

- Study of leaves for condensed tannins showed the tannins were a mixture of procyanidins, prodelphinidins, and propelargonidins. Total phenolic contents of crude extracts and condensed tannins from leaves were 431.9 and 527.1 mg GAE/g DW, respectively. Total phenolic content was calculated at 118.4 mg GAE/g DW. (see study below) (3)
- GC/GC-MS study of fruit residue of Ficus altissima for essential oil yielded a total of 17 compounds, representing all of the oil.  Aliphatic hydrocarbons, esters and alkenes composed three major chemotypes for 64.25%, 26.00%, and 9.75% of the oil, respectively. Main components were dibutyl phthalate (18.14%), n-docosane (7.94%), diisooctyl phthalate (7.86%), n-heptadecane (7.70%), n-tricosane (7.68%), phytane (7.19%). (6)

Studies have suggested antioxidant, antityrosinase properties.

- Sap is poisonous and should not be ingested. May cause contact skin irritation.

Parts used
Leaves, fruits.


- Leaves occasionally eaten as vegetable. (1)
- Fruit is reported as edible but unpalatable from hardness and bitterness.
- No reported folkloric medicinal use in the Philippines.
- Rituals: Considered a sacred tree by Assamese Hindus.
- Cordage: Aerial roots used as rough cordage for binding.
- Paper: In Indonesia and India, handmade paper is made from the inner bark, by soaking it in water and carefully stretching it out. (1)
- Fuel: Stems yield a low quality firewood.
- Dye: Dye obtained by mixing of decoction of bark with lime. (5)
- Latex: Trunk and stems yield latex, which can be used to make rubber, although of lower quality than Ficus elastica.

Antioxidant / Antityrosinase / Condensed Tannins / Leaves:
Study evaluated the total phenolic content, antioxidant activity of crude extracts and condensed tannins of leaves using DPPH, ABTS, and FRAP methods. Results showed condensed tannins possessed higher free radical scavenging activity. - The condensed tannins protected plasmid DNA against free radical damage and alleviated t-butylhydro-peroxide-induced cytotoxicity on human hepatocyte LO2 cells. The condensed tannins exhibited remarkable inhibitory effects on both monophenolase and diphenolase activities of tyrosinase. The condensed tannins from leaves showed significant antioxidant and antityrosinase activities, suggesting a good source of proanthocyanidins with biological activity. The condensed tannins showed potent DPPH and ABTS scavenging capacity and FRAP reducing antioxidant power. (see constituents above) (3)
Essential Oil / Fruits: GC/GC-MS study evaluated  the composition of hydrodistilled oil from fruit residue of Ficus altissima. A total of 17 compounds were identified, representing all of the oil.  Aliphatic hydrocarbons, esters and alkenes composed three major chemotypes for 64.25%, 26.00%, and 9.75% of the oil, respectively. Main components were dibutyl phthalate (18.14%), n-docosane (7.94%), diisooctyl phthalate (7.86%), n-heptadecane (7.70%), n-tricosane (7.68%), phytane (7.19%). Oil was assessed for antioxidant activity by free radical scavenging (DPPH). Study provides theoretical basis for pharmaceutical utilization of F. altissima. (6)


June 2023

                                                 PHOTOS / ILLUSTRATIONS
IMAGE SOURCE: Photo: Ficus altissima leaves and fruits / Greemunionzoa / CC BY-SA / click on image or link to go to source page / Wikipedia
IMAGE SOURCE: Photograph: Sralao (Lagerstroemia calyculata) Lythraceae et Trang (Ficus altissima) Moracea / Jean-Pierre Dalbera / image modified / CC BY 2.0 / click on image or link to go to source page / Wikipedia
IMAGE SOURCE: Photo: Ficus altissima allee - Marie Selby Botanical Gardens - Sarasota, Florida / Daderot / CC0 / click on image or link to go to source page / Wikipedia
IMAGE SOURCE: Photo: Fruit altissima / © The World's Tree Specoes / 2008.05 / image modified / Non-commercial use  / The World's Tree Species

Additional Sources and Suggested Readings
Ficus altissima (PROSEA) / M Brink, PCM Jansen, CH Bosch / Pl@ntUse
Ficus altissima / Synonyms / KEW: Plants of the World Online

Condensed tannins from Ficus altissima leaves: Structural, antioxidant, and antityrosinase properties
/ Yi-Tao Deng, Ge Liang, Yan Shi, Hya-Liang Li, Dong-Yan Shen et al / Process Biochemistry, 2016; 51(8): pp 1092-1099 / DOI: 10.1016/j.procbio.2016.04.022
Ficus altissima / Wikipedia
Ficus Species and its Significance / Sajida Begum, I C Barua / International Journal of Computer Applications in Engineering Science, 2012; 2(3) / ISSN: 2231-4946
Chemical Composition of essential oil from fruit of Ficus altissima 
/  D zhang, Y Feng, Z Liang, Q Lin, J Xu / Advanced Materials Research, 2012 / ISSN: 1022-6680
Ficus / Wikipedia

DOI: It is not uncommon for links on studies/sources to change. Copying and pasting the information on the search window or using the DOI (if available) will often redirect to the new link page. (Citing and Using a (DOI) Digital Object Identifier)

                                                            List of Understudied Philippine Medicinal Plants

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