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THE BEARDED FIG TREE, Ficus citrifolia, is the national tree of Barbados and is believed to be the tree from which Barbados’ name comes.
When the Portuguese first sighted Barbados en route to Brazil in 1536, they saw many of these trees whose aerial roots resembled beards and aptly named the island Los Barbados, or the Bearded Ones.
There has been considerable argument as to whether Los Barbados referred to the trees or whether the term was coined to describe the persons seen on the island at the time, since the word for trees in Portuguese, árvores, is feminine in gender.
If the island was indeed named after the tree, the grammatically correct form should be Las Barbadas. This then leaves to question, if it was not the trees that the Portuguese were referencing, who then were the bearded ones?
The Bearded Fig can be found across Barbados, especially in the gullies. However, they are nowhere near as plentiful as when the Portuguese first visited.