Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Sick and tired of made up fig names

So I have to get something off my chest, I am so sick and tired of all these made up fig names. Please stop with the "discovery" of a fig from someone elses yard and then make up a name for it, and then go and sell it for hundreds of dollars on eBay or through the forums.

Go do some homework before you decide to name a fig and stop capitalizing on the uninformed.


This is a grip about the way some fig growers here in the US go about naming a fig they've found. Europe and Asia Minor is whole other world with their own list of fig varieties so I won't touch into that side of the world.

It's bad enough that at last count there are about 1400 known names from the F4F forum. So there isn't a need to complicate matters by coming up with more names. I'm 99% sure that any fig that someone discovers here in the US can be traced back to it's origins in Europe, Mediterranean, Middle East, or Ira Condit, LSU AG Center and UC Davis.

A prime example of a fig that has been renamed multiple times is the Brunswick fig that has about 24+ names associated with it.



IE: Brunswick = 1. Dalmation, 2. Dalmatia, 3. Clementine, 4. Vashon Violet, 5. Magnolia, 6. Black 7. Naples, 8. Black Triana, 9. Brunswig, 10. Castle Kennedy, 11. Broad White Turkey, 12. Madonna, 13. Khurtmani, 14. Bayswater, 15. Brown Hamburgh, 16. Clare, 17 De Saint Jean, 18. Hanover 19. Belle Dame, 20. Baidi 21. Belle Dame Blanche 22. Col Di Signon 23. Dor

So if you're at a lost for a variety name it maybe a Brunswick. =)

Or Kadota which has a ton of other names.



There is no other class of plant that has this kind of gross abuse of names that gets adopted so easily by the community.

Not including the old country of origin, keep in mind that besides California and Florida, the fig wasp does not exist in any other states to fertilize/cross pollinate, so hybrid figs are not so easily created wildly here in the US. (They are bred by programs at LSU and UC Davis)


Fig names fall into a few Categories.

Hybrid Figs Include:
1. Danny's Delight
2. Beall
3. Jack's Quarter Pounder
4. Norman's Yellow
5. Flanders
6. Excel
7. Hollier
8. Jurupa
9. LSU Gold
10. Nardine
11. O' Rourke
12. Tena
13. Conadria - adriatic hybrid / verdone hybrid

Old World Figs: Most of which can be found on M. Pons Book.

Albo -
Great variety! This particular fig is among the most resistant to frost. Grown in Tuscany mainly for its beautiful golden figs and delicate flavor.Produces brebas and a main crop of large sized figs.

Batignanese -
This fig may have been grown by the Etruscans. It is a medium to small fig, green-yellow on the outside and red on the inside. Produces one main crop. The fruit has a characteristic light moscato-like (Muscat grape) flavor.

 Bizzarria di Sori (syn.Panascè/Panachè) -
With green and yellow striped fruits, this is truly a unique fig and worthy of the name Bizzaria. The rose colored flesh is of good flavor. Produces a breba and a main crop. This variety is typical of Liguria and the Côte d'Azur.

Brianzolo - Produce solo forniti, in epoca intermedia (primi di agosto).
Produces only a main crop, usually in early August. There are two different varieties ; one is red and the other white, both are considered very cold hardy.

Brogiotto Nero Romano -
Similar to Brianzolo, but with a more elongated fruit.

Brogiotto Nero o Fiorentino(Sinonimi: Africano, Barnisotto, Bernisou, Bertino, Brogiotto fiorentino, Brosciotto, Fico della Marca) -
Of the black figs in Tuscany, this variety is considered to be among the tastiest. The fruit is medium sized, with a short stalk giving it a flattened appearance. It ripens very late.

Brogiotto Bianco (Sinonimi: Brogiotto Genovese, Brogiotto Gentile, Genovese, Monaco)-
Similar to Brianzolo, but with a white flesh and green skin.

Buzzone nero -
Produces a purplish-black fruit of large size in two crops. The first is not very early. The second crop comes quite late in the season almost to the time of frost. Both are excellent in flavor.

Callara -
This cultivar is also known as “Rossa”.It is native to the Abruzzo region, and appreciated for its beautiful bright red ribbed, large brebas, as well as for the excellent main crop, a little smaller, but very delicious.

Cavaliere -
Competes with Brogiotto for the very best in black figs. Produces a very delicate and delicious fruit, pear-shaped and with white slits when fully ripe.

Cori -
Cori is a great variety, producing large sized brebas. The second crop produces fruits of almost equal size. The fruit is pear-shaped with green skin and reddish pulp.

Dall’Osso (Fetifero) -
Botanical rarity, purplish black fruit of excellent flavor and variable shape. Limited production.

Dattero - F
Excellent drying fig. The fruit is small and brownish in color with a non-existent neck. It is very sweet with the right proportion of pulp to seeds.

Di Tre Volte - Q
This particular fig, if grown in full sun, can produce up to three crops per year. The fruit has a subtle and delicate flavor.

Dottato (Sinonimi: Ottato, Napoletano, Fico dalla Goccia, Binello, Binellone, Dattarese, Buttada, Calabrese, Regina, Bianco) -
This is the classic teardrop-shaped fig; excellent, sweet and sugary, maturing in mid August. This variant does not require pollination.

Filacciano Bianco -
The name Filacciano is synonymous with “fiorone” (breba), and in fact, this variety from the Lazio region is appreciated for its early green, pear-shaped figs with amber flesh and very fine delicate flavor.

Gentile -
One of the few varieties from central Italy that produces very early maturing brebas with pale green skin. It is suitable for growing in high elevations where the late maturing varieties often won’t have time to ripen.

Lungo del Portogallo -
Produces a breba and main crop, similar to S. Piero, but more elongated and with a red-purple skin.

Melanzana -
A two crop producer (bifera), well known in Calabria and Sicily. Produces an abundance of elongated reddish purple brebas and a similar but smaller fruit main crop. Pulp is delicate and pinkish red.

Monaco -
Monaco’s name comes from its beautiful early brebas. The fruit is wrapped up within a violet colored skin that some have likened to a monk’s tunic. The 2nd crop of figs is a bit less interesting

Nerucciolo dell’Elba -
This variety is very wild and rustic. Produces small black late figs with a dry taste that is very pleasant

Piombinese -
This is one of the oldest varieties in Italy. It can be found in the famous compendium, “Pomona Italiana” by the 17th Century botanist, Giorgio Gallesio. The purplish-blue fruit is quite dark and slender. When fully ripe, it forms characteristic white slits that add to its attractiveness. Both crops are of excellent quality.

Paradiso -
Bifera (two crop) variety that produces honey sweet fruits with a green skin and red pulp.

Pendolino rosso -
With its bright red skin and pulp, this bifera (two crop) variety is not only beautiful in appearance but also flavorsome. It has excellent productivity. The second crop is quite late.

Pissaluto -
This variety is typical of Liguria, where for good reason, it is considered among best. It produces a main crop only. Figs are small, elongated, and sweet. They have refined taste.

Rossellino -
This variety, with its reddish fruit and relatively small size, is valued mostly for its intermediate time of maturation. It comes at a time when few other varieties are available (at the end of July in Tuscany). The fruit is dense and sweet and lends itself to drying really nicely.

Romagnolo -
This is an excellent variety displaying fruit with clear green skin and rose-colored flesh. The brebas are extremely large and of good flavor. The main crop produces medium to large sized fruit that is sweet and tasty, certainly making this variety worth growing.

S. Pietro
 (Sinonimi: S.Piero Nero, San Pietro, Santa Piera, Colummo)-This is a bifera (two crop) variety with large brebas, purplish brown in color and with white longitudinal slits when fully ripe. This first crop matures in early July, whiles the main crop, much smaller in fruit size, matures at the end of August. It is another excellent variety for drying.

S. Pietro Bianco (S.Piero Bianco) -
This variety is similar in shape to S. Piero but with a greenish skin and a clearer pulp.

Salame -
Bifera (two crop) variety typical of northern Italy, and more specifically from the Oltrepò Pavia area. The fruit is white and elongated with red pulp in both the breba and main crops. Both are excellent tasting.

Sementino -
Small black fig that ripens very late in Tuscany. Elongated pyriform shaped, with good flavor described as sweet and aromatic.

Turco -
The name Turco (Turkish) probably derives from its very dark skin color. The pulp is a vivid red. The brebas are large and tasty, while the main crop is medium to large in size.

Verdino -
The fruit from this variety is very small and green. The interior is solid red. Taste is really good.

Names from Collectors, Nurseries, or Germplasm Repository:
1. Barnisotte
2. Col de Dame
3. Dauphine
4. Ronde de Bordeaux
5. Kala Heera

Ethnic Names (new Names from an Old Country):
1. Hardy Chicago,
2. Sal's #1,
3. Long Island Green,
4. Bella,
5. Maryland Brown Turkey,
6. Black Italian
7.  Mission/Franciscana


* On a side note: The work of Ira Condit: Sited from Rays Figs.

"Ira J. Condit still holds the record for breeding the largest number of fig varieties--and is likely to hold that record for the foreseeable future. Growers and enthusiasts lack the political influence needed to obtain government funding for research and breeding since figs are a very minor fruit crop compared with apples, pears, peaches, plums, citrus, bananas, and even pineapples. The resources of commercial growers and enthusiasts are too modest to finance more than minor research into fig pests and diseases. There is very little money for breeding new varieties.

Fortunately, the efforts of Condit, his co-workers and a few other researchers produced a substantial number of new varieties in the 35 years between 1956 and 1991. Here is a listing of 24 new varieties not included in Condit's Fig Varieties:

B.A. 1—A variety said to have been found on an unknown Texas A&M graduate student's abandoned test plot during the trials of Alma. Large and of good quality in the Gulf Coast states. May be less hardy than other varieties.

276-49--In the trade, but not an official release from a breeding program.
Alma--A Texas A&M hybrid of Allison (a synonym for Vernino) with Hamma, a North African caprifig with mixed F. carica/F. palmata parentage. Excellent quality, but very late ripening. Released in 1975.

Champagne--Was in the trade as Golden Celeste until released by the Lousiaina State University (LSU) breeding program.

Conadria--The first of Condit's hybrid releases (using Adriatic and an edible caprifig). Released in 1957.

Deanna--A Condit hybrid. In the trade, but apparently never officially released.

DiRedo--One of Condit's favorites and one intended for commercial growers, also an Adriatic cross. Released in 1957. Not notably vigorous and not a commercial success.

Enderud--An edible caprifig with very good flavor from the Riverside, CA program. Named for Julius E. Enderud, one of the researchers. Carried on the UCR Davis inventory as 228-20

Excel--A Condit hybrid, using Kadota as the mother, named and released by Bill Storey in 1975. Excellent quality.

Flanders--Another Condit hybrid from Adriatic, released 1965. Excelllent quality. Rather unlike Condit's other productions since it is a striped fig with a long neck.

Gulbun--A Condit hybrid, in the trade since 1971. Available in the trade and in the UCR Davis inventory as 284-11.

Hollier--In the trade, but not an official release from the LSU program. (May be the same as Guilbeau.)

Jurupa--A very large greenish yellow fig with amber pulp. The brebas are particularly large. A Condit hybrid selected and named by Enderud. Good flavor.

K-7-11--In the trade and said to be from Condit's breeding program.

LSU Everbearing--In the trade, but not an official release from LSU.

LSU Gold--In the trade, but not an official release from LSU. Reportedly a very fine fig.

LSU Purple--An O'Rourke hybrid of Hunt and a California caprifig identified as "C-1," released by
LSU in 1991. Rather variable in quality and hardiness, but when it is good it is really good.

Nardine--Another Condit hybrid. Yellow skin. Large with good flavor.

O'Rourke--Generally called LSU Improved Celeste until officially released from LSU and named in honor of Dr. O'Rourke. I think it the best LSU fig. Leaf has three lobes, latate, calcarate, glossy green. Fruit is medium, oblate-spheroid without neck; ribs noticeable, but not shaded darker than body of the fruit. Overall color is violet, shading to yellow on shaded side of fruit. Ostiole is red and open; yellow flesh; amber pulp tinged with strawberry; sweet and rich.

Saleeb--A second edible caprifig with very good flavor. Named for Wadie F. Saleeb, one of the Riverside research team formed by Ira Condit and his successor, Bill Storey. Listed in the UCR Davis inventory as 271-1

Smith--According to E. O'Rourke (retired LSU professor who headed the fig-breeding program at LSU in the 1950's), in a conversation I had with him in Feb. 2004, the Smith fig was bred in Belle Chasse, Louisiana years ago by a nurseryman Thomas Becknell Smith. Following is the description of the Smith Fig from "Just Fruits and Exotics" Nursery: Figs for Florida: Superb older variety, large flat yellow fig with a deep red center. Tight eye resists splitting and souring. Very sweet. Ripe August. Zones 8B-10 Killed in Spring freezes, 2001.

Tena--A medium yellow fig with amber to pink pulp. Very sweet, but not particularly rich in south Georgia. A Condit hybrid using Sari Lop (Calimyrna) as the mother.

Tiger (sic)--A medium yellow fig in the trade as LSU Giant Celeste. The name given it by LSU is very unfortunate since there is another fig known as Tiger, but "officially named Panachee.

Yvonne--Still another Condit hybrid. Yellow skin. Large, oblate-spheroid fruit without neck; ribs prominent but no darker than body of fruit. Fruit is violet streaked with yellow and has many small white flecks; red ostiole, partially open; yellow flesh with amber to light strawberry pulp; sweet, somewhat rich."

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Now we have to take into account that matching up historic names to figs via photos on the internet can be problematic. The person trying to ID the fig cannot touch feel or taste the fig or leaves. Which leaves a wide margin for error in the ID of a fig via this method. So many figs get incorrectly identified.

Such was the case with my Gene's Vashon. It was initially ID'ed as Vashon Violet from a senior member of the F4F forum and I used that name for over a year before Kiwibob a local grower here that has been growing figs for decades corrected me and ID'ed it as Gene's Vashon. (Gene's Vashon probably has another historical name, which I hope to ID once my MP fig book arrives).

However as I have had a couple years to compare the Olympian and this variety. I believe the 2 are too similar and maybe the same fig. Complicated!

So let's do a flow chart of sorts to see why we have such a problem with so many fig names.

1.  All figs originally came out of Asia Minor, which is the Middle Eastern part of the world. It then spilled into Europe, then North America, and more recently now it's spreading it's popularity into Eastern Asia especially Malaysia.



Firstly, every time a fig plant crosses into a new country there is some translation from one country to another. This is a legit reason for a different name. Not all countries use the same language.



2. More often than not the name of a fig plant that's brought to a new country is forgotten, in which case  it gets a new name. The fig tree came to North America in the 1600s. More varieties followed with the immigration of Europeans throughout the last couple of centuries. Many of these trees are found on the East Coast where the Italian and Greeks originally immigrated to, settled, and brought along their favorite fig varieties via cuttings. So my guess is that there are scores of varieties that were brought over this way. There is no possible way to actually quantify this, because these cuttings were essentially smuggled in and we can only guess at how many varieties made it through.

California is an ideal environment to grow figs. As such there have been many fig varieties that have been brought to California to grow. The Calimyrna fig is the most predominant commercial variety there, but it requires a fig wasp to ripen, since then UC Davis has been breeding many common types to replace the Calimyrna. The Calimyrna is yellow, that's why many of the types from UC Davis are yellow.

 There are a handful of reputable growers that adhere to original names of figs. Kudos to guys like Jon, Willis, Dave, Brian, and Harvey but there are also guys out there like the Los Angeles Fig Forest that are blatant with their made up names.



Seattle also had such a surge back in the early 1900s called the Garlic Gulch. Today there still remains a few large trees of varieties that do very well here in our climate (8B). Check out this huge tree found in Seattle. That's little old me for size.



3. So what happens 50-60 years after a tree is planted in the US? The original owners may have moved or died and so goes with it the actual name of the fig tree. Someone "discovers" the tree and then gives it a name. Names like "Madonna" (Brunswick), "Little miss Piggy", or the "Home Depot" fig are a few examples of a total disregard of existing names.

4. These made up names then get distributed to others and or get's sold through Nurseries that also perpetuate the name.

I recall going to Portland nursery and bought 2 figs. Oregon Prolific and King Fig. The Oregon Prolific turned out to be Marseilles which I already had 3 plants of. The king fig I'm still trying to figure out.

I have a couple problems with this ongoing practice of "Naming Figs" without trying to at first verify it's ID.

1. Confusion:
Unless you've done your home work, navigating all the figs that are put on sale can be daunting. Fights have broken out over naming conventions and friendships have been broken up over these matters. I've stayed away from the forums lately because every week there seems to be some sort of drama that breaks out that causes members to quite. It's quit sad really. Figs are fun and not suppose to be a source of stress.


The internet is full of trolls but that's a whole other issue.


2. Money
My biggest complaint is that it's misleading to new hobbyist and one can spend thousands of dollars to grow their collection only to realize that when they finally fruit, that they have 5 of the same plant. IE "This guy" Pointing my thumbs to my chest.

But in this case knowledge is power and so there are a few of those that know of the many names that take advantage of this and sell the same variety under different names to make more money.




Whats the Solution: 

Personally I've purchased "Les Figueres a les illes nalears" by Montserrat Pons to help me ID certain figs. You can buy a paperback for $55 on amazon.

It's in french but luckily we have google translator and the book is full of photos which makes identifying figs a bit easier.


There isn't a simple solution to all of this. It's like trying to build a sand castle while the waves continually crash down on your work.

So the next time you run into a fig tree in the wild suburbs, try the following steps before making up a name.

1. Seek an expert to help ID the fig, buy that particular fig and grow them side by side then compare the two against each other. It's a long process but it ensures accuracy.

Or send it in for  DNA testing. (Which I heard isn't always 100% and can be expensive)

Unless you are IRA Condit, please do not name your own fig.

But for now maybe we can call an unknown with the the following format:

UNK. | Adjective of the fig | and then where it was found

IE. UNK. Brandon St Fig

At the end of the day, it's too monumental for any single person to maintain this database but if we all pitched in have a small part in managing the Fig names, we can can spend more time enjoying the hobby of figs vs spending time being confused and fighting over names.

For myself, I really just want a great tasting fig that does well in my yard, without being tricked into it by some made up name of the week.

Great resources for fig names: * Sited from Garden Forum

1) Jon at Figs for Fun has is the most comprehensive site http://figs4fun.com/ 
2) Rays Givan's site http://home.planters.net/~thegivans/ .
3) Fig Varieties, A Monograph by Ira Condit - excellent resource, but no photos. http://californiaagriculture.ucop.edu/0702AMJ/pdfs/FigMonographHilgardia.pdf
4) Caracterització de cultivars de figuera a Mallorca by Josep Rosselló i Botey, (71.3 MB PDF), http://www.caib.es/sacmicrofront/archivopub.do?ctrl=CNTSP760ZI5190&id=5190 This is an enormous file - so plan ahead if you would like to download it. I really like the way the descriptions are organized, etc. It is very systematic and has excellent photographs. It is in Catalan - no English, you can cut out paragraphs and paste them into the Google Translator.
5) Bob (Kiwibob) made a proposal a few years ago to create a photo database that we would all have access to use. http://www.geocities.com/kiwibobg/kiwifruitsalad3
6) Problems Identifying Fig Varieties by Alex Hart http://www.wanatca.org.au/acotanc/Papers/Hart-1/index.htm
8) European Minor Fruit Tree Species Database from Università degli Studi di Firenze http://www.unifi.it/project/ueresgen29/netdbase/s1/dbs1.htm and the actual description key http://www.unifi.it/project/ueresgen29/netdbase/s1/dls1.htm
9) Descriptors for Fig from IPGRI and CIHEAM - Biodiversity International. 2003 International Plant Genetic Resources Institute, Rome, Italy, and International Centre for Advanced Mediterranean Agronomic Studies, Paris, France. http://www.bioversityinternational.org/fileadmin/bioversity/publications/pdfs/907.pdf I had trouble downloading it and got it directly from their web guru. It is a very good checklist. (I could send it if you canÂt get it downloaded)
10) The Fig - Its History, Culture and Curing with a Descriptive Catalogue of the Known Varieties of Figs by G Eisen from. U.S. Department of Agriculture Division of Pomology. Bulletin #9 . 1901. 317 pages. http://books.google.com/books?id=7dZBAAAAIAAJ&pg=PA181&lpg=PA181&dq=%22the+fig+its+history%22+eisen&source=web&ots=w1kBN09HCH&sig=pGPCB0oUq28qxF0TCxv4KCMhdM0#PPA5,M1
11) http://www.ficuscarica.com - This is a good new online variety resource that is developing.
An example of a very good publication is a book produced in Canada called ÂOur Plums by Shahrokh Khanizadeh and Johanne Cousineau. http://www.pgris.com/book-poster/plum-book/description.asp You can see a sample page here http://www.pgris.com/book-poster/plum-book/pdf-file/sample-plum.pdf I think that this is a fine example of what could be done for figs sometime in the future, although with the great number of varieties, it might be prudent to limit what is published in a book and put the rest on an online database.

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