A new Banyan leaf

A new Banyan leaf

A new Banyan leaf

The Indian Banyan (Ficus benghalensis), is a fig that begins its life as an epiphyte and is famous as one of the biggest trees in the world in terms of the area they cover when they grow big and old. As an Epiphyte, the banyan plant begins its life growing in the cracks and crevices of a host treetop or edifice. Then the plant slowly grows their roots towards the ground, eventually taking over and smothering the host tree, thus giving them a nickname Strangle Fig.

The tree has a large canopy and grows many aerial roots which grows downwards and after reaching the ground they grow in to woody trunks. The tree bark is smooth.

The biggest and widest Banyan tree in the world is in the Indian state West Bengal. Known as The Great Banyan Tree which is over 250 years old and covers more than 14,500 square meters (3.5 acres) of land in the Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose Botanical Garden near the state capital Kolkata (Calcutta). In their native habitat, they tend to grow huge in size but they can also be grown as a simple bonsai if maintained properly. 

Known by other common names such as the banyan, Indian banyan, banyan fig, Banyan tree, East Indian fig tree, Weeping Chinese banyan, Bengal banyan, Bengal fig, Horn fig, they belong to the Mulberry family Moraceae and are native to tropical Asia. In Hindu folklore, these were known as ‘the wish-fulfilling tree’ also representing eternal life.

The name Banyan is known to be derived from ‘Banias’, who rested under these trees to discuss their policies and business plans. The specific epithet benghalensis refers to the plants native to Bengal.

Ficus benghalensis (the “Indian banyan”) is also the national tree of India, though the name has also been generalized to denominate all figs that share a common life cycle. 

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