Rubber Plant

Botanical Name : Ficus elastica
Family: Moraceae
Tribe: Ficeae
Genus: Ficus
Subgenus: Urostigma
Species: F. elastica
Kingdom: Plantae
Division:
Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Urticales

Common Names : Balete (Tag.)  ,Indian rubber tree (Engl.)   ,Rubber tree ,Rubber plant   ,Assam rubber (Engl.)

Habitat : Native to northeast India and southern Indonesia.

Description:
Glabrous spreading tree, with numerous adventitious roots from the trunk and branches.
Leaves are large and smooth, leathery and shiny, slenderly acuminate and entirem with prominent midribs. The stipules are usually red, often as long as the leaves.

 

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It is a fat bush in the banyan group of figs, growing to 30–40 metres (98–130 ft) (rarely up to 60 metres / 200 feet) tall, with a stout trunk up to 2 metres (6.6 ft) diameter. The trunk develops aerial and buttressing roots to anchor it in the soil and help support heavy branches. It has broad shiny oval leaves 10–35 centimetres (3.9–14 in) long and 5–15 centimetres (2.0–5.9 in) broad; leaf size is largest on young plants (occasionally to 45 centimetres / 18 inches long), much smaller on old trees (typically 10 centimetres / 3.9 inches long). The leaves develop inside a sheath at the apical meristem, which grows larger as the new leaf develops. When it is mature, it unfurls and the sheath drops off the plant. Inside the new leaf, another immature leaf is waiting to develop.

As with other members of the genus Ficus, the flowers require a particular species of fig wasp to pollinate it in a co-evolved relationship. Because of this relationship, the rubber plant does not produce highly colourful or fragrant flowers to attract other pollinators. The fruit is a small yellow-green oval fig 1 centimetre (0.39 in) long, barely edible; it will only contain viable seed where the relevant fig wasp species is present.

In parts of India, people guide the roots of the tree over chasms to eventually form living bridges.

Cultivation:
In cultivation, it prefers bright sunlight but not hot temperatures. It has a high tolerance for drought, but prefers humidity and thrives in wet, tropical conditions. When grown as an ornamental plant hybrids derived from Ficus elastica Robusta with broader, stiffer and more upright leaves are commonly used instead of the wild form. Many such forms exist, often with variegated leaves.

The figs of F. elasticaMost cultivated plants are produced by asexual propagation. This can be done by planting cuttings or air layering. The latter method requires the propagator to cut a slit in the plant’s stem. The wound, which oozes with the plant’s latex sap, is packed with rooting hormone and wrapped tightly with moist sphagnum moss. The whole structure is wrapped in plastic and left for a few months. When it is unwrapped, new roots have developed from the plant’s auxiliary buds. The stem is severed and the new plant is potted on its own.

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Chemical constituents and characteristics:
The latex contains caoutchouc, 10-30 per cent; a bitter substance; albuminoid. The wax contains cerotic acid.

Medicinal Uses:
Parts used:  Rootlets and bark.

Folkloric
* Skin eruptions and dermatitis: Boil one cup of chopped bark in 1/2 gallon of water for 10 mins; use decoction to wash involved areas, twice daily.
* Decoction of aerial rootlets used for wounds, cuts and sores.
* Bark is astringent and used as styptics for wounds.
* Decoction of latex for parasitic worms (trichuris trichura).
* In northern Cameroon, used as fertility enhancement.
*Plant that Detoxify the Air
* Of the ficus plants tested, the rubber plant is the best for removing chemical toxins from the indoor environment, especially formaldehyde.

Studies:-
• Antiinflammatory: Study showed marked inhibition of experimentally induced inflammation, similar to those achieved with indomethacin, an effect attributed to the presence of flavonoids.
• Hypoallergenicity: (1) Ficus elastica has been suggested as a possible source of natural rubber latex without the allergenicity of latex protein from Hevea basiliensis. (2) Prelim studies showed that natural rubber from Ficus elastica do not cause allergic reactions in hypersenstivie humans
• Antimicrobial / Constituents: Study isolated four known compounds from the leaves of F elastica – emodin, sucrose, morin and rutrin. Results showed antimicrobial activity against B cereus and Pseudomoas aeruginosa. No Antifungal activity was observed.

Other Uses:
Ficus elastica or rubber plant  is grown around the world as an ornamental plant, outside in frost-free climates from the tropical to the Mediterranean and inside in colder climates as a houseplant. Although it is grown in Hawai?i, the species of fig wasp required to allow it to spread naturally is not present.

It can yield a milky white latex also known as sap, which has been used in some cases to make rubber, but it should not be confused with the Pará rubber tree, the main commercial source of latex for rubber making. This sap is also an irritant to the eyes and skin and can be fatal if taken internally.

Superstition: An occasional folkloric advice against having it as a decorative bonsai  inside the house as it is believed to invite ghosts.

Disclaimer:
The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

Resources:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ficus_elastica
http://www.stuartxchange.com/Balete.html

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