Saturday, July 16, 2011


Fig trees grow all over Ocracoke village. Already many of the figs are beginning to ripen. The photo below is of the tree behind the Ocracoke Preservation Society Museum (click on it to view a larger image). The darker figs will be ready to eat when the sides begin to crack and split. The challenge is plucking them just at the right time...before the birds get to them!

Figs on some trees are still tiny, others are larger, but green and hard. They won't ripen for a while.

The very complex, remarkable, and thoroughly fascinating story of the relationship between tiny "fig wasps" and figs is told in chapter 10, "A Garden Inclosed," in the book "Climbing Mount Improbable" by biologist Richard Dawkins. He calls the story of the fig "the most difficult and complicated of all [his] stories." It is a story of "strategy," "symmetry," "cooperation," "kinship," "combat," "deception," "struggle," "mimicry," and "police action" (he uses many of these terms metaphorically, at the risk of making much of his explanation sound too purposeful, which he insists it is not).

Dawkins describes the relationship between fig and fig wasp as "almost ludicrously tortuous and subtle." Although he admits that his explanation of this "difficult and complicated matter" might "defeat [him]," the 28 page chapter is well worth the time required to read it.

Please leave a comment if you've read this fascinating story.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is a modern day ghost tale, "Ode to Mrs. Godfrey," by guest columnist Tom McDonald. You can read it here:


  1. Anonymous2:42 PM

    Sorry to say, Philip, I haven't read the story you mention, but I understand the important role figs have had on Ocracoke Island.

    My late husband, Scott, so enjoyed eating a juicy and ultra ripe fig!

    The fig cake recipe in the local Methodist church cookbook is so moist and tasty.

    Figs are not only tasty, but are packed with "good stuff" and if one needs a little help in the fiber department, just eat a few figs! :)

  2. Anonymous7:00 AM

    Philip, this has nothing to do with figs, although I did leave the one blog comment, but I do have a question for you.

    Yesterday afternoon, I noticed while viewing the local web-cams a barge with a large heavy equipment on it moving from boat to boat in the harbor. This morning, it has moved yet to another boat. I got a pretty good look @ it when it was working on a boat docked near the Captain's Landing web-cam, but I still couldn't determine what type of maintenance was being done. The bucket on the equipment appeared to pick up the boat so something could be done to it before setting it back into the water.

    Could you please address this question and satisfy my curiosity?

    I know.....we mainlanders can be a pain at times! Thanks for not throwing us off your blog! :)

    Many thanks!

  3. I am guessing you are referring to a barge (with a piece of heavy equipment) that I noticed briefly last night. It was setting a piling at the Community Store dock. I was busy working at my skiff and I didn't pay much attention to it. Maybe someone else has more information.

  4. Dawn F, Taylor7:02 PM

    Wonder if any of those Fig Wasp, ever tried Ms. Millie Burrus' Fig Cake :)

  5. Anonymous7:15 PM

    Thanks, Philip, for the explaination....that does make sense. I just had never noticed the barge/equipment before and it almost looked as if a small "tug boat" was pushing it. I'm sure I'm off base with my observation, but I was puzzled and figured you had seen it, too.

    Appreciate the info.