The Ficus Elastica goes by many different names but is most commonly known as a rubber plant, Indian rubber tree, or rubber fig. No matter its name, the Ficus Elastica is a popular plant from the Ficus Genus family.
The Ficus Elastica is a popular character in many homes nowadays given its unique look and the fact that it is super low maintenance! Yet what many people don’t realize is the Ficus plant originated in Southern Asia and was popular for its unique ability to form bridges over rivers in many parts of the world.
Where the Ficus Elastica originates from
The rubber plant originally stems from Southern Asia and is found in countries such as India and Indonesia. It gets its name because the milky sap that it produces is a type of latex that was once used to create rubber. In their native origins, these trees can grow up to a whopping one hundred feet and their trunks can grow up to two diameters in width! Many cultures within these parts of the world have taken advantage of the Ficus Elastica’s super durable stem to create intricate and impressive living bridges within their monsoon-prone habitats.
The process of creating a living bridge
Just like Rome, a living bridge isn't built in a day. These beautiful, unique structures are produced through a healthy combination of human input and natural process.
Once a bamboo structure is placed across a river, the roots of the rubber plant are teased and tangled to entwine with the bamboo, forming a strong mesh. Over time, this formation grows extensively, growing gradually stronger each day.
In the early stages of a living bridge's life, only fifteen to twenty people can travel across the bridge per day. Over time as the Ficus Elastica living bridge gradually strengthens and grows, up to fifty people and even more can then begin to use the bridges.
The process of creating a living bridge within these tropical areas can take up to two decades to be fully completed but as a result, these durable works of art can survive up to 500 to 600 years!
Not only is this a super handy form of infrastructure for the locals, but it is also good for the environment as creating these bridges is far more sustainable than using materials like metal and steel.
Where are there living bridges in the world?
Some of the most common living bridges are located in the southern parts of the Northeast Indian State of Meghalaya, often referred to as the ‘Abode of Clouds’, which is one of the richest botanical habitats in Asia.
Within this remote part of the world, building roads isn't a feasible option due to the climate, so this is where this ingenious idea steps in.
These natural works of art can help locals travel across villages to complete everyday tasks like getting their children to school, going to the doctors, and more.
The ficus rubber plant as a household plant
Aside from the Ficus Elastica being a miracle worker in the world of infrastructure, these types of plants also make for the perfect statement piece in your home. With their silky sheen leaves and low maintenance qualities, they are a plant-lovers dream come true!
Top tips to keep your rubber plant glowing
Rubber plants are easy to care for and can thrive as long as they are maintained under the correct conditions. Fear not though as, although a full-grown rubber tree can grow up to one hundred feet in outdoor areas, typically they can only reach around ten feet tall indoors.
Here are some trusty tips to make sure your Ficus Elastica lives its best life:
Store out of direct sunlight and cold draughts
The rubber plant does need plenty of vitamin D, but they survive best when they are placed in an area with plenty of indirect sunlight. The Ficus Elastica plant is best kept in rooms with a normal or warmer temperature, ensuring the temperature doesn’t drop below 12°C in the colder months.
Moderate amounts of water
The Ficus Elastica only needs to be watered every week but in the warmer months, if the soil appears to be dry it may need some extra H20. Be sure not to overdo it on the watering, otherwise the leaves will start to droop.
If you have a four-legged roommate or a mini-me, be careful to keep the Ficus Elastica out of reach, as the latex can be poisonous if ingested and cause some skin irritation.
The power of plants
The Ficus Elastic is a fantastic example of the sheer power and potential of plants. If you’re on the hunt for a fabulous, fuss-free addition to your house, look no further than the rubber plant. Not only does the Ficus Elastica have an amazing background in infrastructure within the tropics of Asia, but they are also beautiful living beings that transform any humble abode into a living paradise.