Fig trees

Ficus species

Click here to see an animation about the Mugumo Tree.

The picture in the story above was inspired by the Trout Tree restaurant which is built in a fig tree on the road between Naro Moro and Nanyuki. Find out more about Trout Tree restaurant here.

Click here to watch an animation about how Strangler Figs got their name.

Click here to read about a Champion fig tree, The Westlands Post Office tree, and how it was saved from the axe.  

Fig trees are revered by the Kikuyu people. When a branch of this fig tree, growing at the Red Cross office at the Dagoretti road junction, was cut, people were very upset. A ritual was held to atone for the sin of cutting the tree. You can read more about it here. 

In her autobiography 'Unbowed' Nobel Prize winner, Wangari Maathai describes the fig tree growing near her home when she was a child:

'The country was dotted with hundreds of huge migumo, or wild fig trees, their bark the color of elephant skin and thick, gnarled branches with roots springing out and anchoring the tree to the ground. Fig trees had great green canopies beneath which grew dense undergrowth. This tree's canopy was probably sixty feet in diameter and it produced numerous fruits that birds loved. When the fruit was ready you would find hundreds of birds feeding on them. The undergrowth of the fig tree was also very fertile because people did not cut anything near those trees but allowed the undergrowth to flourigh. All this added to the tree's mystery.

When my mother told me to go and fetch firewood, she would warn me, "Don't pick any dry wood out of the fig tree, or even around it."  "Why?" I would ask.  "Because that's a tree of God" she'd reply. " We don't use it. We don't cut it. We don't burn it."  Unbowed p44 - 45.

"According to the Kikuyu myth of origin, God created the primordial parents, Gikuyu and Mumbi, and from Mount Kenya showed them the land on which they were to settle; west from Mount Kenya to the Aberdares, on to the Ngong Hills and Kilimambogo, then north to Garbatula. Together, Gikuyu and Mumbi had ten daughters - Wanjiru, Wambui, Wangari, Wanjiku, Wangui, Wangeci, Wanjeri, Nyambura, Wairimu and Wamuyu - but they had no sons. The legend goes that when the time came for the daughters to marry, Gikuyu prayed to God under the holdy fig tree, mugomo, as was his tradition, to send him sons-in-law. God told him to instruct nine of his daughters - the tenth was too young to be married- to go into the forest and to each cut a stick as long as she was tall.  When the daughters returned, Gikuyu took the sticks and with them built an altar under the mugomo  tree on which he sacrificed a lamb. As the fire was consuming the lambs body, nine men appeared and walked out of the flames.

Gikuyu took them home and each daughter married the man who was the same height as she was, and together they gave rise to the ten clans to which all the Kikuyus belong. (Even though the youngest daugher, Wamuyu, did not get married, she did have children.) " Unbowed p 4 - 5.

Giant sycamore figs and cabbage trees growing around the Menengai holy caves add to the solemn atmosphere of this ancient pilgrimage spot. People come from all over the country to pray in the caves. During the independence struggle they were a hiding place for MauMau warriors.

There are many fig trees growing on the slopes of Mount Kenya. Read about the fig trees of Karichota retreat here.

Click here to watch a film about the life of the Sycamore Fig

Kenya is not the only place where Fig trees are considered sacred. This books talks about the importance of fig trees in human history and culture all over the world. Its a great read and has an interesting chapter about Kenya.

To find more about Kenyan fig trees (Ficus species) visit the World Agroforestry Database.

Contact us if you would like a free printable fact sheets about Fig trees.