A bit of fig terminology is necessary to understand their growth habits and how to care for your Fig trees.  In warmer regions like the Mediterranean and California, Figs can produce several crops or a “continuous” crop each year.  The first crop is called Breba and occurs immediately above the leaf nodes of the previous year’s growth.  Second crop Figs are called Main crop and they always develop above the leaf nodes of current season growth.  “Bifera” refers to producing both the Breba & Main crops.  “Unifera” refers to producing only the Main crop.  The terms “profichi”, “mammoni”, and “mamme” each describe a crop of the Caprifig but lose relevance in our climate.

The edible Fig is neither a fruit nor a flower.  It is called a “Syconium” which is a hollow structure with flowers covering its inner surface.  These flowers are either male (staminate) or female (pistillate).  Female flowers occur in all Fig syconium, and both occur within Caprifig syconium.  Some varieties require pollination (called “caprification”) to set and mature the syconium while others don’t.  There are four types of Figs:

1.  Caprifigs which describes all Figs with male flowers in their syconia, & may or may not set a first crop.

2.  Smyrna type Figs which contain only female flowers.  This type rarely produces a Breba crop.  It requires “caprification” by a specialized wasp to set either crop of Figs.
3.  San Pedro type Figs which generally set a good Breba crop but require “caprification” to set the Main crop.
4.  Common type Figs which may set no Brebas, have a moderate, or a good Breba crop.  Common type Figs of both the Breba & Main crop mature without caprification.

Since the Blastophaga wasp which “caprifies” Figs is not present in our region, you can forget growing the Smyrna type here.  With few exceptions, Figs grown outdoors in our area rarely if ever set and mature more than the Breba crop.  Due to a lack of sufficient heat during the growing season, only in low-lying protected microclimates like some areas of Vashon and Bainbridge Island is it possible to set a Main crop without extreme measures like potting the tree and moving it indoors for the winter or burying it in mulch.  As with most things in life, these are general rules and there are exceptions to them!

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