IT'S not a handbag, a European car, a designer pooch or even a reservation for a window table at Quay.

 

But it is emerging as the ultimate Sydney status symbol.

 

The fiddle-leaf fig - a plant native to parts of western Africa - has Sydney's inner-city dwellers in a frenzy, with some prepared to wait as long as six months to get their hands on one of the super-trendy shoots.

 

Sparked by a wave of US and European design magazines, which declared the ficus the hippest horticultural must-have about two years ago, fiddle-leaf fever has well and truly reached Australian shores.

 

Buyers can't get enough, with nurseries fielding several calls a day inquiring about the broad-leafed specimen.

 

Josh Yaqab, of Surry Hills' boutique nursery Garden Life, said that demand far outweighed supply - with no sign of slowing.

 

"As soon as we get a shipment in they're gone," Mr Yaqab said. "People often give us their credit card details over the phone, sight unseen, to secure them.

 

"Often I have called a customer to tell them that the plants are in stock and they say, 'Hold on, I'm turning around, I'm doing a U-turn and I'm on my way'."

 

So what makes this particular plant, which retails for about $200 and thrives both indoors and out, so desirable?

 

Described on the Burke's Backyard online glossary as "hardy and almost unkillable", the fiddle-leaf fig (named because its leaves resemble the base of a violin) is described by Mr Yaqab as "a low-maintenance and aesthetically sublime wonder".

 

"It's just a really beautiful plant," he said. "The leaves have a lovely texture and it's really interesting to look at.

 

"Even people who have never heard of it will come into the nursery and see it and say, 'What is that? It's gorgeous'."

 

Enforcing its status as the "it" plant of 2013, the influential garden design blog Gardenista declared the fiddle-leaf fig the "Plant of the Year" recently, adding "it was probably last year's, too".

 

The fig, however, does not retain the title of priciest, that honour is bestowed on an extremely rare juniperus chinensis keteleeri - named cloudtree by Mr Yaqab - which carries a price tag of $2500.

 

Professionally pruned and tended, the cloudtree is considered - at least in horticulture circles - as the closest a plant can be to a piece of artwork. "And it's extremely hardy, (it) grows very tall and is extremely low maintenance," Mr Yaqab said.

 

source: news.com.au