Ficus benghalensis (banyan)
Ficus benghalensis, watercolour on paper, by unknown Indian artist, commissioned by William Roxburgh, Calcutta, India, early 19th century.
Ficus benghalensis L.
Tropical forest, but frequently cultivated elsewhere in the tropics.
Ornamental, medicinal, traditions & beliefs, food, fibres, dyes, construction.
The latex of various species of Ficus can cause allergic skin reactions and contact with the eyes should be avoided.
About this species
Native to India and Pakistan, banyan is a type of strangling fig. The plant begins life growing on other trees and eventually envelops them completely. Aerial roots hang down from the branches and these eventually become trunks. This circle of trunks deriving from one original tree can reach an enormous size – 200 metres in diameter and 30 metres in height.
Their welcome shade has made them important gathering places. Known in Hindu mythology as 'the wish-fulfilling tree', banyans represent eternal life.