Lubi-lubi young leaves
Lubi-lubi young leaves

September Vegetable of the Month is Lubi-lubi (Ficus pseudopalma)

September 13, 2016

LUBI-LUBI or PALM LEAF FIG

Scientific name: Ficus pseudopalma

Family: Moraceae (Fig family)

Common names: Lubi-lubi, Niog-niogan, Palm Leaf Fig, Philippine Fig

The Philippines is home to thousands of endemic species, and one of them is a fig locally known as Lubi-lubi. I’ve known about this plant since I took up a plant taxonomy course in college, but I only learned that it was also eaten as a vegetable during my field work in La Mesa Watershed when I was already an Assistant Professor.

Lubi-lubi plant
The only lubi-lubi plant we have in our garden is in a pot that’s too small!

This is such a strange-looking fig plant, that when encountered for the first time by an American botany professor whom I hosted when I was still working in UP Diliman, he was puzzled for several moments before he realized that it was indeed a fig. The ‘pseudopalma’ part of its scientific name means ‘fake palm’, due to its palm-like appearance.

Lubi-lubi leaves
The leaves of lubi-lubi are arranged in a palm-like manner, hence the scientific name Ficus pseudopalma.

Be proud that Lubi-lubi is endemic to our country, which means it’s found only here! (Note: It has been brought to other countries as an ornamental, but they don’t bear viable seeds).

This shrub or small tree grows in early successional areas that don’t get too dry during the summer. The ones I’ve seen are not cultivated at all, but are rather “hulog ng langit” (fallen from the sky); they are easily dispersed by fig-eating animals. As long as its fig wasps are present, the fruits will get pollinated and ripen.

Lubi-lubi fruits
Unripe figs or syconia of Lubi-lubi.

We got Lubi-lubi plant in these photos from a friend at the Philippine Native Plants Conservation Society, Inc. when it was still tiny. It’s now bearing fruits (syconia, if you want to be more technical), but unfortunately, I think there aren’t any of the specific pollinator wasps in our area, hence the figs do not ripen. As you can see, the plant is thriving, even though it is in a pot.

The young shoots are the ones consumed, and you’ll maybe notice in the photo that we’ve been picking them. Usually though, the entire apex is harvested, but that kills the apical bud. That may encourage lateral branching, but we don’t do it for fear of killing the plant. Let me know if you’ve ever done it and whether the plant lived or died.

Lubi-lubi in the market
The entire apex is harvested and sold in markets in the Bicol Region. (Photo courtesy of Market Manila)

Pick the young leaves while they’re still reddish. Otherwise, they’ll be too fibrous to eat. This vegetable is popular in the Bicol Region, where it is usually cooked in coconut milk, onions, garlic, and of course lots of hot chili peppers. It also has folkloric uses for the treatment of hypertension, diabetes, kidney stones.

Author: Regielene

Regielene of the House Gonzales, First of her name, the Freelancer, Queen of Content Marketing and the First Scientist (in her family), Khaleesi of the Great Grassy Area (at the back of the house), Breaker of (dog) Chains, Mother of 10 Cats and 4 Dogs.

2 thoughts on “September Vegetable of the Month is Lubi-lubi (Ficus pseudopalma)”

  1. I love this plant. The young leaves cooked with coconut milk has no equal. I’ve seen pictures growing in parts of Hawaii. Is is legal to bring seeds or cuttings into California for pot cultivation?

    1. Hi Don,

      I don’t think it’s illegal to take them out of the Philippines… but bringing them into the US is another matter. I’m not familiar with your laws about importing plants.

      Thanks for dropping by!

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