A massive widespreading broad-crowned evergreen tree to 30-40 m tall with roots tending to grow along the surface. Trunk often buttressed and occasionally developing aerial roots in damp or humid situations. Bark smooth and grey. Leaves mostly 15-25 cm long, 5-10 cm wide, dark green and glossy above, paler and rusty coloured beneath (but not due to hairs); vein pairs 15-20. Fruit mostly in pairs in the leaf axils, ovoid to spherical, 1.5-2.5 cm wide with short nipples (cf. F. watkinsiana), eventually maturing to purplish with yellow spots in Oct-Nov; bracts 2; stalks mostly 1.5-3 cm long.
Grows naturally in subtropical rainforest from Jervis Bay to Cape York. Occasionally seen as an epiphyte growing either on trees of the same species (producing false aerial roots) or in the heads of palms. Probably the first public avenue of Australian rainforest trees was of this species, planted as a double row along the northern outer Domain in Sydney. A popular avenue tree in the 1850s in NSW but also used in Victoria much later; an excellent avenue runs along Birdwood Ave outside the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria in Melbourne and a row running diagonally across the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria (Melbourne Gardens) Northern Walk probably marks the pre-1900 banks of the Yarra River. This fig is now planted infrequently and confined largely to historic public parkland.
SA: Adelaide Botanic Garden (avenue planted 1866; Botanic Park; Adelaide Zoo); Vale Park (Levi Park Caravan Park, large old specimen tree). NSW: Sydney (Centennial Park; Redfern Park; Royal Botanic Garden Sydney). VIC: Armadale (Lauriston Girls School); Burnley (The University of Melbourne Burnley Campus 20 m tall, 6.4 m circumference at chest height in 1990, planted c. 1857); Carlton (Carlton Gardens); Drik Drik (Avenue of Honour planted 1920, 17 trees); Essendon (Queens Park); Fitzroy (Gds, many); Geelong (Geelong Botanic Gardens); Malvern (Malvern Gardens); Melbourne (Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria (Melbourne Gardens) several mature trees, one near boatshed with impressive aerial roots); South Yarra (along Birdwood Avenue); St Kilda (St Kilda Botanical Gardens); Swan Hill (known as the Burke & Wills Tree but has no association with the explorers, this is the largest cultivated tree in Victoria with a height of 28.5 m, girth of 11 m and massive spread of 44 m in 1987); Werribee (Chirnside Park); Warrnambool (Warrnambool Botanic Gardens; Raglan Parade, avenue of 36 trees).
subsp. columnaris (C. Moore) P.S. Green, endemic to Lord Howe Island has a banyan habit and slightly smaller leaves and fruits; there are 2 mature specimens at the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney.
F. baileyana Domin from CE Queensland is occasionally grown: it is very similar to F. macrophylla but differs in having reddish rusty hair on the lower leaf surfaces and more elongated figs.
Source: (1997). Moraceae. In: . Horticultural Flora of South-eastern Australia. Volume 2. Flowering plants. Dicotyledons. Part 1. The identification of garden and cultivated plants. University of New South Wales Press.