Ficus cordata subsp. cordata, the Namaqua rock fig, is a small to medium sized tree that reaches heights of 10 m, occasionally double that (SA tree List No. 51). It grows in the arid north-western parts of South Africa, usually among rocks. This tree is often a rock-splitter, having roots that will enter the tiniest cracks and widen them patiently.
F. cordata subsp. cordata is more widespread in Namibia than in South Africa, especially in the western and central parts. This specimen was seen covering a sandstone cliff in the Gifberg south of Vanrhynsdorp. Some of these fig trees will also be found near rivers or seasonal riverbeds of its distribution area.
In a habitat known for its extreme summer heat, a tree such as this provides most welcome shady respite in the breeze under the branches and the rocky overhang.
There are particular specimens of F. cordata subsp. cordata described by early naturalist explorers who visited the Cape Colony hinterland long ago. This has helped to date some of these trees to be well beyond 200 years in age.
The other subspecies, F. cordata subsp. salicifolia is found to the north in the Arabian Peninsula (Coates Palgrave, 2002; Van Wyk and Van Wyk, 1997).