caprifig - will it ever make edible fruit

Asked March 26, 2018, 11:08 AM EDT

Hi there, We recently purchased property in Venice, CA that has 1 fig tree. The elderly couple that owned the property said that they had tried everything for the past 20 years to help the tree but it never made edible fruit. My husband wants to have it taken out. I did some research on the internet and I think that it is a caprifig. I love figs and don't want to have the tree removed but my husband doesn't want a tree that isn't productive. I'm wondering if there's anything we can do to help the caprifig make edible fruit? If it's a matter of adding a female will that make the caprifig fruit properly? Or does it simply pollinate the female? I don't think we can handle having another fig on the property since it's not that much space and from what we've heard, the current tree drops so much fruit and is quite a mess. I would be grateful for your advice. xx Ramaa

Los Angeles County California

3 Responses

Thank you for your question about your fig tree. If it is a caprifig, it won't produce figs in Venice. The reasons are several: First, the pollinating insect is not available where you live and second, caprifigs thrive in Western Asia, a far different climate.

This article describes how to grow imported caprifigs in the San Joaquin Valley. "Fig in California" (

You might consider replacing the existing tree, and obtaining a fruiting kind. Fortunately, a number of fig trees, after they are established, can be managed at a reasonable size with annual hard pruning. Then, too, several kinds grow to just 8-feet tall.

That said, this spring, you can easily obtain a young fruiting fig at a nearby large scale garden center. With a modicum of care, including summer water, the new tree will rapidly develop a good size. Ask the staff which fig will do well where you live.

Good luck with your fig. I know I enjoyed the fresh fruit from my tree when I lived in Long Beach. Ir was always superior to store-bought.

Hi jean,

thank you for your quick response. The fruit of the tree is very dry and inedible. There are tons of wasp around it. This is what led me to believe it’s a caprifig. Could there be another reason that the fruit is inedible? It’s a very large tree the trunk is about 3 ft in circumference.

The wasps that pollinate caprifigs (Blastophaga psenes) are very small, in fact, they're speck-sized. (Let’s back up a moment to correct that information: Caprifigs are used to cross pollinate Smyrna figs, which are the imported dried kinds.)

These fig-pollinating wasps are far different than the common wasps seen in home gardens, among them yellow jackets, baldfaced hornets, and various paper wasps, all of which dine on fruit left on the tree too long. With figs, over-ripe fruit typically ferments if left on the tree, a choice meal for insects. Or, possibly that the fruit needs to be harvested every several days.

Because you see lots of wasps in the tree, I wonder if the problem is lack of water through the summer and other dry months. If so, that shortage would be the reason for dry, seedy figs. (Even so, mine was producing well without summer irrigation right up until I left Long Beach 19 years ago.)

If you want to experiment, you could try watering the tree every 3 to 4 weeks through the summer and other dry months. To help the soil retain the applied water, add a mulch of bark chips under the tree, 3- to 4-inches deep, all the way to the drip line. Water the outer half of the area to the dripline, each time to 6 or 8 inches deep.