The roots of Ficus ingens will spread across a solid rock surface as in the photo if they fail to find hair-crack opportunities for penetrating and eventually splitting the rock. Some roots have clearly had their way with this rock, while others meandered in the open for a long time, Odysseus-like, trying to find the way home.
These roots seem to have been going round and round, eventually morphing into stem-like appearance when giving up the prospect of below-ground living.
Several other South African Ficus species split rocks, notably F. abutilifolia and F. ilicina while others, including F. burtt-davyi and F. craterostoma strangle nearby trees by enveloping them in their branches like boa constrictors. Don't mess with a fig tree if you lack speed.
Both these processes represent slow-wrestling actions, the aggressive movements restricted to the growth rate of the plant parts involved. Still, the enormous forces exerted leave impressive results, the struggle for life being a selfish act, in trees conducted with neither malice nor concern for fellow beings (Coates Palgrave, 2002; Wikipedia; www.plantzafrica.com).
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