top of page

Fig Synonyms | What is a Synonym & A List of Types or Categories and their many names

Updated: Dec 21, 2022

What is a fig tree synonym?
A synonym in the world of fruit are varieties with different names, but they're pretty much identical.

Why are there so many synonyms within fig trees?
A lot of the fruit that we eat at the store and maybe even grow ourselves is patented. Especially in the world of stone fruits, popular berry fruits and now apples. This means that someone bred the variety. They took the time to make crosses, evaluate the characteristics and for their time, they're able to patent the variety, name it whatever they want and own exclusive rights to it.

In the world of figs, very few patents exist. Generally speaking, no one has the rights to a fig variety. Only if you took the time to breed them, prove that and patent them. This is partly why you can name a fig variety whatever you please and because of poor hobbyist practices, we've acquired a huge number of synonyms and names for pretty much the same fig. Take Hardy Chicago for example. There are 100+ named varieties that are almost identical. This is why learning about the world of figs can be difficult for someone that's new. This is also why when I first started growing figs I decided to catalogue varieties within their respective "types" or "categories". It really helped sort through the clutter and identify what was better to add to my collection and what was not.

Speaking of bad hobbyist naming practices, here are some naming rules to follow that will help you understand the subject of synonyms more clearly:

I think what it comes down to is whether or not your fig is unique. If it's not unique, can it be identified and what observable differences can be seen to merit a name?

1. If you plant a seed, it is acceptable to name your new variety whatever you please. By hand pollinating your female fig with the pollen of a male fig of your choosing, you could potentially prove that the seedling is your intellectual property.

2. If you find a seedling in the wild, it is also acceptable to name the tree whatever you please. Again it's a seedling and when we plant seeds or when birds plant seeds, they are genetically different than any other variety. I would first however suggest taking a photo of the tree to get more opinions on whether or not it is indeed a seedling. Sometimes trees are planted and a trained eye can usually tell the difference. I think honesty is the best policy. If you present detailed information forth to the fig communities about the seedling you've found, people will have no problem accepting your new found seedling and the name you've given it.

3. If you find a planted tree, try to identify it first. Find out from the owner where it comes from. Was it from a nursery? Is it from some other country? If it's from a nursery, identify it (that shouldn't be difficult) and keep the original name the nursery gave it. If it's from another country and it cannot be identified, feel free to name it. If it can be identified and it's not from a nursery, you should proceed carefully with a new name.

Here's why:

Although I've used the word identical above, what I really mean is that they likely (we don't really know for sure with every fig unless they're genetically tested) have the same genetic code. Like identical twins, but as we've learned more in the world of genetics a new term has become popular, called epigenetics, which means that each of your genes has a sliding scale. Think of a light dimmer or a light switch. Depending on your environment, your habits and lifestyle, genes can be turned on or off. You can also "dim" them in between completely turning them on or off. This is how a fig with the same genetics could show observable differences than the other. Think of identical twins. They share the same genetics, but if you separated them at birth, their environment, habits and lifestyle changes their genes through what's called epigenetics. They would become quite different people. Even if you didn't separate them, they would still be somewhat different.

So naming a fig that's been identified and is not from a nursery actually has some merit. This is where a fine line can be drawn. Step over it and the fig naming police will come after you. That's right.. you could go to fig jail. I'm not kidding. Your reputation as a fig grower can be tarnished. Isn't the politics of fig trees crazy? However, as I just said above there could be some solid evidence of epigenetic changes that would absolutely give you the right to name it whatever you want. Not just that but clear observable changes because that tree was growing in one location for years. I'm often asked how long does it take to see these changes. I really don't know. Like I said, there's a fine line with all of this and some of it is still not totally understood.

Nowadays I'm in the camp of it's really ok to name pretty much any fig what you want, but you should be doing your due diligence first. Keep new fig growers in mind that eventually have to learn the name you've given. Make it easy by thinking of a name that's suited to the variety. Like where it comes from or what the fruit resembles. Keep in mind all of the many Hardy Chicago trees that exist. Don't name another one unless you really think it's spectacular and different than the others. Or maybe you can attach a moniker to it like Fred's Celeste for example. This notes that it's a source of Celeste from a grower named Fred and creates less confusion.

I think you can understand now why I wanted to educate you all on these synonyms. There is this unfortunate (although not necessarily wrong) hurdle that every new fig grower must overcome to be fully educated on the world of figs.

You should also be able to understand why I am trialing many figs within the same category. It's because of the epigenetic and observable differences that make each fig somewhat unique. Take English Brown Turkey as an example. In my opinion it's one of the worst classes of figs pretty much everywhere. They're not exactly the tastiest and specifically in humid climates they often split and the skin can act like a sponge absorbing water into the fruit that ruins the fruit quality. That doesn't mean though that every English Brown Turkey is created equal. In fact some growers in the Northeast argue for a fig called Fehmarn. It tends to split less and does better in the rain. The same thing can be said for so many other varieties. Take the One as an example! The hang time is only 1-2 days! That's way shorter than any other Celeste I've grown. Take Stallion for example. That's a Celeste that has a stronger berry flavor than other Celeste figs. Some figs within each category grow faster, slower, have different shapes, skin, ripening periods and so many other differences.

Now onto the synonym list:
Below I am going to list the most popular figs and their synonyms. These are figs that every fig grower in the US should learn. There is 1000s of varieties of figs and it can be quite daunting to learn them all. Especially if you account for all of their synonyms. I think if they're not common or on this list, it's probably not worth the effort to learn them just yet. This is a great starting point:
Hardy Chicago
Columbaro Nero
Figo Moro da Caneva
Violette de Bordeaux
Black Mission
English Brown Turkey
Bourjassotte Noire
Black Madeira
White Marseilles
Longue d'Aout
California Brown Turkey
Coll de Dama
Grise de St. Jean

Below is a video of a comparison of a number of Hardy Chicago figs with different names.

4,977 views1 comment

Recent Posts

See All

1 Comment

On your spreadsheet you indicated that Socorro Black was a synonym for Bourjassotte Grise. You still believe this to be true? I do have both.

ross raddi_edited.jpg
I'm Ross, the "Fig Boss." A YouTuber educating the world on the wonderful passion of growing fig trees. Apply my experiences to your own fig journey to grow the best tasting food possible.
bottom of page