Balete trees are plant species that are endemic to the Philippines. They are from the genus Ficus. Ficus is a genus characterized by having large, thick, or stiff leaves. Members of this genus are characterized by possessing a white to yellowish latex, a unique inflorescence, and a distinctive pollination system (i.e. involving a specific wasp species (i.e. fig wasp of the family Agaonidaeas pollinators). The fruit is an enclosed inflorescence (i.e. syconium).
Balete trees are mostly hemiepiphytes. They germinate from seeds that are dispersed by birds to the crevices or cracks atop a host tree. The plant sends off aerial roots downwards. The aerial roots that reach the soil grow into it and thicken into additional trunks. The growing roots encircle the host tree and appear to strangle the latter. Thus, a balete tree that grows upon another tree and competes for sunlight and available nutrients is an example of a strangler fig. The host tree eventually dies and rots, leaving a hollow cylinder of roots, which have now become the trunks of the balete tree.
Some of the species named as balete tree are as follows: F. arayatensis Warb., F. balete Merr., F. benjamina Linn., F. benjamina Linn. var. nuda Miq., F. clusioides Miq., F. concinna Miq., F. elastica Roxb., F. forstenii Miq., F. indica Linn., F. parvifolia Miq., F. payapa Blanco, F. philipinenses Miq., F. retusa Linn., F. stipulosa Miq. Linn., and F. variegata Blume.
- Kingdom: Plantae
- Order: Rosales
- Family: Moraceae
- Genus: Ficus
Other common name(s):