Indigenous to South Africa, Ficus thonningii is evergreen and can be found in the Eastern Cape spreading north to Botswana and Tanzania. Fast growing, the tree reaches an average height of 10 to 15 m, but can attain heights of up to 21 m. The crown is dense and rounded to spreading, making it important to space the wild fig adequately. The trunk can be fluted or multi-stemmed and the bark is smooth and grey on older specimens.
The leaves are simple with a glossy, dark green colour and the texture is thin and papery or slightly leathery. Aerial roots are often found hanging down from the branches and the whole plant exudes copious amounts of milky latex when cut. Flowering and fruiting takes place most of the year with the peak period in October. Ripe fruits can be made into a jam for human consumption, but is primarily eaten by birds and baboons. The leaf litter are eaten by livestock and wildlife and also aids in improving the nutrient status and water-holding capacity of the soil.
The Common wild fig has an aggressive root system and should not be planted near buildings, swimming pools or pathways. It is a good shade tree for a large property and is often planted to offer cover from the sun in recreational areas or parks. In addition, the tree is a successful container plant and makes an excellent bonsai specimen.