Gods, Wasps, and Stranglers by Mike Shanahan


Book for September meeting

  • All about fig trees
  • for restoration
  • In the bible maybe the apple tree was a fig tree?
  • A must read
  • studying the fig
  • over a million years figs are important
    • influenced our evolution
    • restore rain forest
    • stem loss of wild species
    • limit  climate change
  • some figs can grow over 30 meters in height
  • There is also a fig wasp
  • Figs have hidden flowers
  • Figs feed at least 1274 species of birds and mammals
  • making of fig latex
  • Fig trees are all over the world
  • How are the figs staying alive
  • hundreds of false stem that make up what is know as the stragglers
  • started with the theory of evolution with Darwin
  • strangler roots of a fig tree do not grow in ground.  Grow in canopy, then the roots go to the ground for moisture.
  • these strangler figs can produce as many as a million figs
  • fig trees show vital steps to evolution with pollinators and flowers
  • have combined their DNA and created trillions of seeds
  • Fig trees in Christianity goes back to the fig tree
  • Ficus species serve as abodes for spirits
  • They have been known as wishing trees
  • Fig trees seem to be home to supernatural beings (some countries)
  • Buddhist monk (1994) first time in tropic forest.. blew student loan for a plane ticket
  • for a monk a fig tree, and had enlightenment.  It was a Ficus religious species
  • He found enlightenment from this fig tree
  • this tree can live for hundreds of years and it will carve its way into its host’s wood
  • By  3300 BCE cities were starting to be built in Pakistan
  • to build houses, crops, and sanitary system
  • The Ficus (Vedic people) wood was used for fire in preparing hallucinogenic drinks.
  • The Fig gave rise to Hinduism.
  • Buddha was to spread the message of peace.
  • The fig tree could be the  oldest living tree with a known year of planting
  • This ficus is a embodiment of divine power
  • fig trees have more than 750 species
  • Gods 0of  Olympus,  that’s how fig trees were created.
  • A dried fig  was like a treasure
  • Alexandra the great reached India, found a giant fig tree, created a  large shelter for many people beneath the crown.
  • construction of the banyan tree
  • for utility and birth of the universe
  • banyan tree was used for hanging
  • make incense, gum
  • captured the fig  by Edred John Henry  Corner
  • Monkeys sometimes looks for figs to eat.
  • He had monkeys to be civil servants from England.
  • Corner was then attacked by one of these monkeys
  • The war, 1941, as Singapore was attacked by Japan.
  • Corner was put under arrest and was working in the garden
  • Corner  became a professor back in  England
  • Corner has ficus legacy
  • fig is not a fruit, it flowers only once in 3000 years??
  • A fig wasp is an insect who will lay her eggs on a particular ficus tree
  • She only has 48 hours to an early death
  • the trees need the wasps
  • her goal is to lay her eggs and die
  • figs are violent places
  • these wasps are pollenating the fig tree
  • Need a specific wasp for ficus plants
  • process of wasps pollenating on a fig tree
  • figs produce fruit all year long
  • ch 7:   (36%)
  • fig trees are a good food resource for the rain forest.
  • The national nark had 28 species of strangler figs.
  • they each had a specific host tree.
  • Laman planted many seeds (7000) for stranglers but had issues with ants, becoming to dry, and other insects.  Only 1.3 percent survived a full year.
  • works well when planted on wood.  Thus moisture was an issue
  • the male bird feeds the female bird.
  • (41%)
  • birds excrete many seeds per day from the canopy
  • Logger are taking out many of the ficus trees
  • In 1992 he found trees to take pictures of rhinoceros hornbill birds
  • A fall from the canopy would cause death
  • great view from “the canopy”.
  • spirits are with the figs.
  • ficus can produce 2 or 3 crops per year
  • Droughts are hurting the ficus pants  (the fig wasps)
  • Even a 10 C in temp had no effect in the wasps
  • Studies show that many species have gone locally extinct
  • “Empty forest system”  can’t disperse fig trees/
  • We are relate through the eating of figs.
  • the fig tree survived to apocalypse
  • figs offered a life line for the fosil Ardipithecus ramidus
  • Chimps love to eat figs
  • the fig is a good source of energy
  • chimps squeeze to figs to determine ripeness
  • ficus tree is like a “meat magnet”
  • No pollen means no seed
  • Egyptian people would think of fig in the underworld
  • Kenyan had figs are a super food
  • increase figs for curing diseases
  • figs could be used for treating cancer
  • In the Congo a fig tree was planted to determine if there was enough water.
  • “don’t cut down a fig tree”   56%  9/5
  • can grow to 20 meters tall
  • provides medicine for others
  • The fig became a sacred tree
  • Kenyan used fig trees in their war
  • Some troops were watching fig trees to find Kimathi. (for uprising…insurgents)
  • old prophecy of fig trees
  • A fig tree can cause security, limit soil evaluation, produce clean water…etc
  • These trees can restore landscapes. (62%)
  • Volcanoes came to New Guinea which destroyed many vegetation
  • what was left was the fig trees along island
  • because of the pollenating wasps figs were produced
  • fig trees pollenating in pure lava
  • fig trees attack fruit bearing animals  thus a forest will develop
  • fig trees help forests recover.
  • Fig trees are the hero’s in restoration of rain forest
  • forests were turned into farmland
  • all ficus species will reboot the framework species
  • they had big roots, can get water, grow fast and shade others
  • can transform lava to tropical rain forest
  • better water, food, air, bio-diversity, and soil erosion, maneuverable drones to help find fruited plants/fig seeds (tree species)  Fruited trees
  • Look after fig trees and they will look over you
  • Marrying trees/old ritual
  • The more forest is the more liberated humanity we can have.
  • fig trees are connectors
  • the thought that fig trees were here  about 80 million years longer than humans


I did not really enjoy the “structure” of the book.  Though, it was interesting when the author was writing about the fig wasps.  This book was a good read because it covers the whole documented history of life.  What intrigued me was that the fig tree was at the starting line too.  The benefits of bio-diversity that the fig tree yields is the “best of the best”.  What do you think God had in mind when he provoked Eve to sample the apple (the book thinks it was a fig fruit).  Question?  Do we need to go back to this ficus plant as many generation before us did?   It’s a debatable question that was stimulated by a good read.






5 thoughts on “Gods, Wasps, and Stranglers by Mike Shanahan

  1. I learned a lot about figs and the ecosystems at which they’re the center. However, I found much of the material he presented about the culture aspects of figs, evolution, and climate change repetitive and unconvincing. Again, I had no idea about how marvelous figs are, but much of the book could have been omitted


  2. 1. Without figs and fig wasps, the world comes to an end. P.3
    2. Is there another type of tree so involved in religion? P.49
    3. “Sex and Violence” chapter given the secret for the perfect tree, the short time involved, and the competition, its a wonder that many
    actually “hatch” (talking about wasps)


  3. Without figs and fig wasps the world comes to an end P.3
    Is there another type of tree so involved in religion P.44
    “Sex and Violence” chapter given the secret for the perfect tree, the short time involved, and the competition, its a wonder that many actually “hatch” (talking about wasps)


  4. Who knew (besides possibly all of those figs) how boundless these fig trees are–both botanically and culturally?! Resilient, yet vulnerable, figs both engage in and are victimized by creative destruction. Aside from the at times annoying anthropomorphism, there are a good many portions of Gods, Wasps, and Stranglers that would serve as a good middle-school read-aloud. Shanahan is a lively presence in his work.


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