Day 167


June 14th, 2012

We think of a fig as a single fruit, but it's actually an inside-out inflorescence: each of the hundreds of fleshy little strands inside it is an individual flower. It would generally seem to be a bad idea for a plant to grow its flowers internally — wouldn't this prevent them from being pollinated? — but figs have an amazing relationship with a very small, specialized kind of wasp.

A female wasp of this type is able to crawl inside a fig through a tiny opening opposite the stem. Once inside, she lays her eggs, and in the process transfers pollen from the fig in which she was born. The larvae feed on the individual flowers in which they are growing until they reach maturity, at which point the males and females mate. The males then chew tunnels leading out of the fig and subsequently die, and the females (bearing pollen from the fig's flowers) escape through these tunnels and seek out new figs in which they can lay eggs of their own.


  1. Scoats says:

    Wow. That’s totally crazy. Thanks for the info.

  2. Jeannine says:

    I learned about this symbiotic relationship a few years ago when I was looking up the definition of symbiosis. And now I think of those wasps whenever I eat a fig newton.

  3. Anna One says:

    Am I the only one who doesn’t want to eat figs anymore?
    I do, however, love Fig Newtons!

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