Ficus reflexa is a small tree that can reach more than 6 meters tall. It can behave like a strangler fig tree. It is a hemi-epiphyte that lives as an epiphyte during part of its cycle. The seeds can sometimes sprout in cavities of other trees. In this case, it produces roots that grow down to anchor eventually in the soil. The leaves are inserted in helices, glabrous or puberulent, with small stipules. The sessile inflorescences are usually arranged in pairs in the axils of the leaves or on the branches just under the foliage. The flowers are grouped in inflorescence of a particular type called "syncarp". The ficus flowers have many forms. The inflorescence forms a hollow in which the flowers develop. These flowers and the fruits derived from achenes constitute the pulpit. The wall of this hollow constitutes the skin of this false fruit.
This indigenous species is found in the Mascarenes: Reunion, Mauritius, Rodrigues and also in Seychelles, and Madagascar. It is found growing in all altitude, the figs are dispersed by birds and fruits bats. The plant can colonize an area rapidly forming a nice canopy.
The plant is said to be of ‘Least Concern’ on the IUCN Red List. The population could decline due to the invasion of exotic species.
The plant can encircle the host tree and literally strangle it, which usually results in the death of the host tree. The host tree can also be killed as Ficus reflexa can compete against it for light hence its vernacular name.The first sample was collected by Carl Peter Thunberd (Thunb) in 1786.