|An Indian banyan tree (Ficus benghalensis) in front of the Edison museum in Fort Myers, Florida|
Ficus indica L.
Ficus benghalensis, commonly known as the Indian banyan, is a tree which is native to the Indian subcontinent. Specimens in India are among the largest trees in the world by canopy coverage.
Ficus benghalensis is also known as the 'Bengal fig' and 'Indian fig'. In Bengali language, it is known as bat (pronounced as bawt or bɒt). In Tamil, it is known as aalamaram (ஆலமரம்). In Telugu, it is known as marrichettu. Sanskrit names include nyagrodha and vata. In Kannada it is known as aalada mara. In Malayalam it is known as aalmaram or Peraal and in Punjabi It is known as "bodha".
Ficus benghalensis produces propagating roots which grow downwards as aerial roots. Once these roots reach the ground they grow into woody trunks.
The tree is considered sacred in India, and temples are often built beneath. Due to the large size of the tree's canopy it provides useful shade in hot climates.
The giant banyan trees of India are the largest trees in the world by canopy coverage. One individual specimen, Thimmamma Marrimanu, in Andhra Pradesh, covers 19,107 square metres and is the largest single tree by two-dimensional canopy coverage area. This tree is also the world's largest known tree by perimeter length with a perimeter of 846 meters.
Nearchus, an admiral of Alexander the Great, described a large speciment on the banks of the Narmada. The tree's canopy was so extensive it sheltered 7000 men. It was later described by James Forbes (1749–1819) in his Oriental Memoirs (1813–1815) as nearly 2000 ft. in circumference with over 3000 trunks.
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Dhanya, B. (Jun 2013). "Does litterfall from native trees support rainfed agriculture? Analysis of Ficus trees in agroforestry systems of southern dry agroclimatic zone of Karnataka, southern India". Journal of Forestry Research (Harbin) 24 (2): 333–338. doi:10.1007/s11676-013-0357-6.
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