Out of the Woods: Celebrating Trees in Public Gardens
The Third New York Botanical Garden Triennial

Fig Tree 

Ficus carica
Tucson Botanical Gardens, Tucson, Arizona

I am fortunate to have several botanical gardens and arboreta near my home in Arizona. For the exhibition ‘Out of the Woods: Celebrating Trees in Public Gardens’, I found a beautiful fig tree, Ficus carica, at Tucson Botanical Gardens. It is one of my favorite places to finds specimens to draw and I have at least fifteen drawings that have started from specimens at these gardens.


In communicating with the office at the Tucson Botanical Gardens, I learned that it was planted in 1993 and is a centerpiece of the Children’s Garden. While Ficus carica is not indigenous to the Sonoran Desert, there are plentiful examples of orchard trees like fig, pomegranate and citrus brought to this area by Spanish settlers. The edible fig is one of the first plants to be cultivated by humans, 1000 years before wheat and rye.


I created a small drawing of this fig tree many years ago and loved the forms of the leaves and fruits. It seemed that no two leaves were alike. It is typical to find both three-lobed and five-lobed leaves on the tree and their shapes vary widely, too.  It was inviting for me to revisit this tree for a new drawing. Most of my work in recent years has been drawing the many different species of cacti of the Sonoran Desert and it was a pleasant departure to not include spines.


To really get a view of the figs I had to climb under its low hanging leaves and branches. The play of light and shadow on the leaves, that are light and dark sided themselves, was appealing to me. I decided to portray these different values in graphite pencil to emphasize that particular quality I saw while being on the underside looking out.

Read more about this artist’s work: 20th Annual International
  • © 2017 Joan McGann
    Ficus carica
    Ficus carica
    Graphite on board
    14" X 17"