The Middle East and Western Asia
Small tree or shrub, not growing taller than 33 feet (10 meters), deeply lobed leaves, fluted trunks, and of course, bears figs.
Humanity began cultivating figs long before most other trees. For this reason, they are a symbol in many religions. Fig trees are mentioned 40 times in the Bible, and they are also mentioned in the Qu’ran. Buddha achieved enlightenment sitting under a fig tree, and Vishnu, a Supreme Being in the Hindu tradition, was born under one.
In Western tradition, fig leaves have become synonyms with sin and sex because of their religious connection. The “Fig Leaf Campaign” began in the 16th Century when the Catholic Church published an edict that art should not inspire lust, and the naked human form became even more shameful and scandalous. The campaign began shortly after Michaelangelo unveiled his sculpture David, a large, muscular, and naked ideal of mankind. David was soon girdled with a garland of fig leaves, in what became history’s most infamous example of art censorship that was to last hundreds of years. While many paintings and sculptures have since been restored, it is said that there still exists a box of severed sculptural genitalia somewhere in the Vatican.