The Ficus elastica - more commonly known as the Indian rubber plant, is a native of tropical Asia. It is a very popular specimen, grown around the world as an ornamental plant, outside in frost-free climates from the tropical to the Mediterranean and inside in colder climates as a house plant.
When small, the Ficus elastica grows as a single unbroken stem, but once it matures it can develop large buttresses and a stream of aerial roots.
Its leaves characteristically develop inside a pale green sheath at the apical meristem, which grows larger as the new leaf develops.
When it is mature, it unfurls and the sheath drops off the plant. Inside the new leaf, yet another immature leaf is waiting to develop.
Believe it or not, in some parts of India, people guide the roots of the tree over chasms. As these roots build up over time, they fuse together and eventually form living bridges!
Ficus elastica varieties
It is unusual to come across the true species Ficus elastica in plant retail outlets as it has been widely superseded by the variety Ficus elastica 'Decora'.
This form has a shiny, dark green, and ovate-oblong leaves which can reach 12 inches in length. they are arranged spirally on the stem and are borne on short leaf stalks.
The prominent midrib shows red on the underside of young leaves. The young leaf buds are covered with a bronze red sheath.
There are several variegated forms available. The young leaves of Ficus elastica ' Doescheri' are pale green tinted with pink, and have broad ivory margins. With age the green portions darken, the pink variegations disappear and the cream-coloured leaf margins become narrower.
Ficus elastica 'Schyveriana' has rectangular, variegated cream patches on the leaves.
Ficus elastica 'Tricolor' is variegated with cream, sometimes flushed with pink.
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