A variety of tropical ficus traditionally cultivated as bonsai, the ficus retusa, which is part of the Moraceae family, looks like a very resistant plant, able to easily adapt to the typical environmental conditions of an apartment. It is a species, therefore, easy to maintain, somewhat malleable and quite rare in nature: its use as a bonsai was already known in ancient Rome: in fact, its name dates back to that period, deriving from the fact that its shapes show variegated human and natural figures (such as ginseng for example). Distinguished by a very powerful, wide, twisted and sinuous trunk, the ficus retusa flaunts an expanded, shady crown, rich in leaves and large; direct consequence of the fact that in nature this species can reach considerable size. As for the bark, it is very clear, smooth, waxy and thick: in the more mature specimens it is milky white or whitish, while in the younger ones it is reddish, gray or brownish. Characterized by the typical horizontal lenticels (the usual small protuberances common to barks), it offers a whitish wood with veins, which when cut produces an abundant, sticky, dense and white latex, irritating to humans and even toxic in case of ingestion. The trunk must undoubtedly be considered as particular: white, with twisted roots at the base, large and massive (but there are also roots that start from the branches to reach the ground, almost like secondary trunks); the root system, in general, powerful, able to resist humidity without problems: just think that in nature the roots are called to support an enormous weight, due to the foliage, the branches and a particularly powerful trunk.
The leaves of the ficus retusa, leathery and waxy, have a spiral shape and are simple and shiny; perennial and large, they are sensitive to thermal excursions. Upright or close, they are distinguished by a light green color on the lower page, which becomes darker on the upper one. The length varies, depending on the age, from two to five centimeters. The leaves of this species, able to persist on the tree at least six months (but not more than twelve) are arranged on the branches individually, and have a rather evident petiole, derivation of the perula, a sheath that surrounds them at the moment of birth and that falls after hatching, leaving a noticeable scar. The ficus retusa it does not tolerate the sea, as the leaves cannot bear the salty winds. While the trunk and branches are rich in pith and are characterized by pointed terminal buds, wrapped in two small green scales, the flowers of this plant are tiny, unisexual, grouped in hollow receptacles. In fact, the common fig, that is what is usually considered the fruit, is nothing more than a large fleshy inflorescence, rich in sugars, pear-shaped, first red and then purple in color, inside which there are very small flowers, whose flowering, moreover rare, occurs during the hot season. These are diclinic flowers, with a small opening on the apex, the so-called ostiol, which allows the insects Blastophaga psenes to proceed with the fertilization of the pistils. So, what are the real fruits of ficus retusa? They are small achenes, which grow inside the inflorescence, which will then color the fig pulp red. Inflorescences (which in any case are not very ornamental) hardly grow in bonsai cultivation (and in general in potted), as the European climate is excessively harsh to favor their appearance.
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Coming from South-East Asia, and particularly widespread in Malaysia, the ficus retusa lives, in nature, in the sub-tropical and rainforests, in the context of a humid and warm climate. It is therefore a tropical species, which naturally multiplies by offshoot, that is to say by rooting the branches that touch the ground. In Europe, it can safely stay indoors all year round, or even in a heated greenhouse, as long as a bright and humid climate is ensured. Cosmetic damage could be caused by drafts of cold air, while temperatures lower than twenty degrees, even if not lethal, are nevertheless to be avoided.
It should also be noted that the level of resistance to cold also depends on the degree of maturation of the wood, which is initially soft and succulent; the tissues, in fact, receiving an adequate exposure to the sun compact themselves, and inside them the percentage of latex and starch becomes higher, so that the freezing temperature decreases.
The ficus retusa, which needs a soil composed of akadama earth, river sand and rigorously braking universal earth, needs abundant and regular irrigation, preferably with rainwater, but in any case with water with a low content of chlorine and limestone . Finally, fertilization takes place every ten or so days with liquid fertilizers, and every month and a half with slow release solid fertilizers, preferably integrated with ammonium sulphate and superphosphate.
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bonsai ficus retusa
The Ficus Retusa, also known as the Taiwan Ficus, a fast growing, round evergreen tree with a wide and
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