Characteristics of Indian Banyan Tree (Ficus benghalensis) in the Wild

Ficus benghalensis
The Indian banyan fig is a tree species of the genus Ficus and in the Moraceae family, native to northwest India on the slopes of the Himalayas. Now the tree has spread throughout the tropics in Southeast Asia.

This tree grows semi-epiphytic and epiphytic on other trees, which at first is not damaging because Ficus is not a parasite. However, over time, the growing Indian banyan fig tree will produce a lot of aerial roots that eventually cover the tree it is hosting like most trees of the Ficus genus including Peepal (Ficus religiosa) and Chinese Banyan (Ficus microcarpa).

Ficus benghalensis was first described by Carolus Linnaeus in 1737, who later also went by the name Ficus indica. The species name refers to the area of Bengal. The name “Banyan” comes from banyas, Hindu traders in the Persian Gulf.

 

Characteristics of Indian Banyan Leaf

Ficus benghalensis Leaf
Source : flickr.com/Ahmad Fuad Morad

The leaves are large, leathery, oval to elliptical, and the tips are blunt. The petiole is about 1-2 cm long and speckled.

The young leaves are yellowish or reddish. The leaves stay on the tree for about a year, then fall off and are replaced with new leaves.

 

Characteristics of Indian Banyan Fruit

Ficus benghalensis Fruit
Source : flickr.com/Alka Khare

The fruit is typical of Ficus, appears at the tip of a stalk, is in the shape of small berries, and is very popular with birds, bats, squirrels, and monkeys. The fruit-eating animals help disperse the seeds which cause this tree to grow everywhere.

 

Characteristics of Indian Banyan Tree

Ficus benghalensis Tree
Source : flickr.com/Kyle Wicomb

Indian banyan fig grows as a medium tree with a height of up to 20 meters (rarely up to 30 meters). The bark is gray and smooth, the trunk is short and irregular in shape and divides into many branches which eventually spread wide creating a shady canopy.

The wood is not durable and cannot be used. Its air roots emerge from the side branches, which thicken when in contact with the ground and support the stem-like crown.

In this way, over time the Indian banyan fig tree can occupy an area of several hundred square meters.

This tree is widely planted for greening land and overcoming soil corrosion. The Indian banyan fig tree is also traded in the form of an ornamental tree in pots and bonsai.

 

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