Indian Laurel (Ficus microcarpa)
Native Range: Southeast Asia, India, Sri Lanka
How it got here: Introduced as an ornamental tree for gardens. It did not become invasive until the 1980's when the pollinating wasp was accidentally introduced.
How it spreads: The fruit are eaten by birds and the seeds spread in their droppings.
The Indian Laurel is in the Fig Family, and produces a fig-like fruit that contains about 150 seeds. A single large tree may produce 100,000 fruit which are eaten by birds and spread island-wide.
Indian Laurels are also known as ‘strangling figs’ because they are often seen growing on other trees and seriously threaten their host’s survival. The Laurel surrounds the host tree with its own roots and may grow large enough to pull down the host tree with its weight. Indian Laurels have a wide spreading leaf canopy, so they can also kill their host by growing over the top of it and shading it from the sun.
Indian Laurel seedlings can sprout almost anywhere that a seed lands. They can be seen island-wide growing out of walls, roofs, tanks, gutters and sidewalks. As the seedling grows it develops an impressive root system that can be incredibly damaging to buildings and stonework as it expands cracks and if the tree gets large enough, it adds considerable weight. For this reason, Indian Laurels are considered a threat to Bermuda’s historic buildings as well as our natural environment.
Removal: A fully grown Indian Laurel may reach 60ft (18 m) tall, so removal is an expensive undertaking and will require professional help. Ideally, Indian Laurel should be removed while it is small and not fruiting.
Small trees are difficult to pull by hand, and when growing from a wall or building pulling them may damage the stonework. Continually cutting off the leaves and top should eventually kill the tree. A herbicide can be brushed onto the cut stump but herbicides should not be used on Laurels that are growing on other trees in case it poisons the host tree.
Further Reading: An Illustrated Guide for Bermuda’s Indigenous and Invasive Plants [PDF, 42MB].