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Although it is a close relative to the more well known Ficus cariaca, or common edible fig, the Ficus pumila does not necessarily look much like its family member. Otherwise known as a creeping fig or climbing fig, this woody vine is root clinging, meaning that it clings to surfaces by aerial roots along the stem. Although it is native to eastern Asia, this evergreen vine is used throughout the world as both a decorative plant and cuisine.
The Ficus pumila is considered to be very easy to grow, and it can be grown in full sun or slightly shady areas. Young plants should be watered regularly in well-draining soil, but older, more mature plants can be left to their own devices. Creeping figs can also become quite aggressive and cover entire walls, sometime climbing to over 60 feet (roughly 18 meters) within a few years. To prevent this, some gardeners choose to plant this vine in less-than-fertile soil to prevent a possible takeover.
The leaves of the young Ficus pumila are quite small, heart to oval shaped, and roughly one inch (2.5 centimeters) in length. Younger plants have smaller stems with fine hairs along them. As the plant matures, it will begin to grow larger, woodier horizontal stems and larger leaves. These dark green leaves are more leathery and grow to be roughly four inches (10 centimeters) long.
The light green fruit of the creeping fig is considered to be a false fruit, meaning that the flowers and seeds grow together to form one solid mass. Tiny flowers of the Ficus pumila can't actually be seen unless the fig itself is cut open. Seeds and flowers grow together inside a hollow receptacle, and they are pollinated by a special kind of wasp, often referred to as the fig wasp. After entering the nearly enclosed structure, these wasps will not only pollinate the flowers inside, but they will also lay eggs of their own.
For many gardeners, the Ficus pumila is used as a decorative vine. This fast-growing vine is capable of clinging to a variety of structures, and it is often used to cover unattractive walls. In warmer climates, though, these vines can be damaging to certain types of materials, and they can also grow out of control quickly, if not pruned regularly. Some landscapers, homeowners, and gardeners also use this plant to cover large areas of ground. Indoor gardeners can also grow a creeping fig in a hanging basket.
In some areas of the world, namely Taiwan and Singapore, the fig produced by this plant is also used to make a certain type of jelly, called ice jelly or aiya jelly. When the fig ripens to its purple color, it is cut in half and turned inside out. It is then allowed to dry, and the seeds are scraped off. The seeds are then mixed with water in a mesh bag and rubbed, which extracts a gel from the seeds. This gel is then allowed to set, and it is often served in sweet drinks during the hot summer months.