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Publication : 2014.
Author : Bo BLOMQVIST.
Photographs : Bo BLOMQVIST.
All rights reserved.



The Bornholm fig




I live in Gothenburg, Sweden. The average temperature in Gothenburg is in January 0.5 °C and in July 17 °C. The annual average is 7.7 °C. At my place it is unusual with frost after April and the first frost in autumn is usually in the second half of October or in the beginning of November. The winter temperatures usually drop down to -10 to -15 °C but only for short periods. It can also occasionally reach -20 °C or lower. The lowest temperature in Gothenburg during the twentieth century was in 1942 when it was -26 °C.

For about seventeen years ago I became interested especially in fruit and berry growing. Example of species I am testing are mulberries, paw paws, grapes, peaches... I am also highly interested in figs.

In the mildest areas of Sweden it is not uncommon with figs espaliered against a wall. A Swedish botanist, working at the botanic garden of Lund, said to me that in these areas of Sweden there is no problem to grow figs for fruit quite successfully. In years when the winters are fairly mild it is possible to have a crop of figs in the spring, and when the summers are warm it is also possible to have a crop in late summer. It is usually not necessary to protect the fig trees in winter. In some winters however there can be some die-backs on the branches.

Fig tree growing against a wall at the botanic garden of Lund (Sweden)

Fig tree growing against a wall at the botanic garden of Lund (Sweden).

For my part, in July 2008 I found a quite big fig bush in central Gothenburg, not far from where I am living. It was about 3 meters high and 4 meters wide. This was really a surprise, I had never seen a fig in Gothenburg before. Unfortunately it was cut down in October because they made some renovations on the house.

Fig bush in central Gothenburg (July 2008)

Fig bush in central Gothenburg (July 2008).

During a trip to South Sweden with other fruit enthusiasts, I could see some young fig trees with a short trunk planted near houses.

Young fig tree in southern area of Sweden

Young fig tree in southern area of Sweden.

The most offered fig variety in garden centers and nurseries in Sweden is 'Precose de Dalmatie' prov. Bornholm (its name includes the word "Precose" and not "Précoce" like in French). It is quite common nowadays. It is most often grown trained against a wall in the mildest parts of Sweden, that is, around the coasts in southern areas. It is also grown in greenhouses in other parts of Sweden.

Ficus carica 'Precose de Dalmatie' prov. Bornholm

Ficus carica 'Precose de Dalmatie' prov. Bornholm.


Ficus carica 'Precose de Dalmatie' prov. Bornholm

Ficus carica 'Precose de Dalmatie' prov. Bornholm.


Ficus carica 'Precose de Dalmatie' prov. Bornholm

Ficus carica 'Precose de Dalmatie' prov. Bornholm.

It is often referred to as "the Bornholm fig".  Bornholm is a Danish island in the Baltic Sea, to the east of most of Denmark, south of Sweden and north of Poland. The main economic activities on the island include fishing, dairy farming and crafts such as glass making and pottery. Tourism is important during the summer because moderate climate makes Bornholm an ideal location for sailing and other water based sports.

Bornholm also attracted many famous artists at the beginning of the 20th century, forming a group now known as the Bornholm school of painters. The map hereafter shows The Bornholm island, down on the right.It may also be noted that Göteborg (Sweden), where I am living, is just across from Skagen, located on the northernmost tip of Denmark.

Bornholm : Danish island in the Baltic sea, south of Sweden

Bornholm : Danish island in the Baltic sea, south of Sweden.

However the connection between 'Bornholm fig' and 'Precose de Dalmatie' is not obvious. A gardening consultant on Bornholm said that the origin of the Bornholm fig is very uncertain. It is not even clear if it is only one variety. Some figs growing on Bornholm might have been introduced from Italy by artists living on Bornholm, or by Danish seamen which have been sailing in the Mediterranean Sea. Also according to the above-mentioned Swedish botanist, there are important uncertainties about the Bornholm fig and it probably exists several varieties of this fig.

In the future I will travel to Bornholm and investigate this in more detail. I also hope to get opportunities to collect some fig cuttings and also to talk with people which have fig trees, and ask them if they know anything about the history of their particular fig tree. It is possible however that 'Precose de Dalmatie' is a real variety, but I have not received any information about this. If it is a distinct variety, one might say that it is one of the varieties of the Bornholm fig.



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