|An Indian banyan tree (Ficus benghalensis) in front of the Edison museum in Fort Myers, Florida|
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.
In Theravada Buddhism, this tree is said to have been used as the tree for achieved enlightenment, or Bodhi by the twenty seventh Lord Buddha called "Kassapa - කස්සප". The sacred plant is known as "Nuga - නුග" or "Maha nuga - මහ නුග" in Sri Lanka.
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 m2 (205,670 sq ft) 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 m (2,776 ft).
Nearchus, an admiral of Alexander the Great, described a large specimen on the banks of the Narmada River. 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 610 m (2,000 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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