'LSU Improved' Celeste questions

bcfromfl(z8a NW FL)December 1, 2006

Hi everyone --

I tried searching the forum to avoid asking questions already answered, but didn't see anything similar to this.

I purchased an "LSU Improved" Celeste earlier this year from Just Fruits & Exotics, and put it in the ground in April. It had leafed out well in the pot as I was waiting to put it in the ground, but a late frost in April caused most of the new leaves to shrivel, turn brown, and fall off. After putting it in the ground the tree has sulked all year long, putting out very little new growth, and just a few more leaves late summer/early fall. (VERY stinky -- I'm not looking forward to the cat pee smell when it grows larger!!)

That said, it has put out an impressive number of figs. I'm not sure I understand the difference between breba and regular crops, but I thought I understood that this variety would have ripe fruit sometime in the summer. Well, I've been sampling figs all year long as they ripen, and I can't describe any of them as being particularly "sweet". The "best" ones have been appearing over the past couple of weeks, and I've been allowing them to drop off the tree to the ground before eating them. Softer and slightly juicier, but not "sweet". They're also a bit smaller than I expected -- about an inch or 1-1/4" across. The fruit on the tree during the summer had eyes that opened early allowing ants to enter before completely ripe, although these later figs have maintained closed eyes even as the fruit shrivels. The neck area of the fruit is particularly bitter, so the bulbous part is the only portion worth eating.

The tree is about three feet tall with several branches (I plan to prune it so it grows taller with a single trunk), but only about a dozen leaves. Is this simply a matter of not enough "horsepower" in the tree itself to send "sweetness energy" to the fruit? Or are there "duds" when purchasing fig trees?

Should I have been removing figs like with my small citrus trees, so that fruit production doesn't slow green growth? Or do fig trees really care that much? Since the figs were green and there were so few leaves, I was even thinking that they might be photosynthesizing to a degree and helping provide some energy back to the plant before they began ripening. OK, silly logic, but there were so many that it didn't seem to matter if I cut them off or not -- more kept popping out.

Thanks loads!

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gene_washdc(zone 5a)

The breba and fall crop can be quite similar or different depending on the variety. It this case it seems that they do have differences. You can use Tanglefoot around the base of the trunk to avoid the ant problem.

Yes, some varieties do taste better than others, but figs tend to improve as they mature, so yours may taste some better after another year or two of production. Many of us here are fig variety collectors, always on the hunt for that perfect fig.

If your plant is still very, very small, you might pull off the fruit to help the plant direct its energy towards becoming established, otherwise wouldn't worry.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2006 at 1:14PM
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You may have had one of several issues going on this year. The late frost set your tree back. I had an Alma that froze to the base last winter. It grew very little this year and produced no fruit. Another reason for slow growth may be that it has been establishing its footing in the ground. I would expect that next year you will see more substantial top growth.

My Celeste has small fruit as well. The difference in taste between "just about ripe" and "ripe" is quite marked. You may not have let the earlier figs ripen long enough and the later ones may not have had enough heat to fully develop flavor.

There has been a few discussions about removing figs to improve tree growth, especially on young trees. I have one tree (a three foot whip of an unknown variety) with nodes about an inch an a half apart, but when the tree had fruit on it, the nodes were less than a half inch (and in some cases much less) apart. I don't think that you will need to do any fruit pruning next year. Celeste does not have much (if any) of a Breba (on last year's growth) crop. Mine starts growing the Main (on current year's foliage) crop of figs around the March/April time-frame. You should see significant foliage growth before that.

If it were my tree, I would definitely give it at least one or two (especially if growing in tree form) more season before labeling it a dud.


    Bookmark   December 1, 2006 at 1:52PM
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bcfromfl(z8a NW FL)

Thanks so much for sharing the great information, and your experiences with your own trees! I especially liked the link to finding that "perfect fig". So, fig crops are variable enough to the point that season to season can produce very different fruit. Interesting... Guess I'll stow the axe for now. ;-) I'll keep my hopes up for a decent tree -- at any rate, mine looks like it'll produce a whole lotta somethin'!

Thanks again!

Bruce C.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2006 at 2:21PM
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pitangadiego(San Diego, CA)

I don't have "improved" version, but have several Celeste variants.

Your plant used a lot of energy in its first flush of leaves, which it lost, with no benefit in return, so it is probably trying to recover from that loss.

Celeste should be very sweet, but must be fully ripe. Mine usually hang on the tree at leat a week after first sign of swelling and color change. They will usually start to dehydrate on the tree, and get even sweeter. First year figs, and for a 2nd year sometimes, are not necessarily representative of what the fruit from a mature tree will be like, because of juvenility, and becasue they often "ripen" later in the season that more mature trees would.

Some trees also need a fertilizeer shock to get them growing. My Black Madeira grew and inch or two a year for several year of growth and is much more productive.

In a couple years, when it has grown more, perhaps you can send me a couple twigs and I will grow it side-by-side with my other Celeste Experiment trees, to see how widely they differ.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2006 at 5:13PM
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