|An Indian banyan tree (Ficus benghalensis) in front of the Edison museum in Fort Myers, Florida|
Ficus benghalensis, with the common name Indian banyan, বট (baut) in Bengali and वट वृक्ष in Hindi, 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 baut (pronounced as bawt or bɒt). In Nepal, it is known as Bar or Var (वर्) and is very commonly paired with Ficus religiosa (commonly known as Peepul/Badla (पीपल/बड़ला)) to make Chautaris (चौतारी) to sit and rest on (in popular intersections and locations). In Telugu, it is known as marri chettu (మఱ్ఱి చెట్టు).In Tamil, it is known as aalamaram (ஆலமரம்). 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.
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.
- The Plant List, Ficus benghalensis Linnaeus
- Midya, S.; Brahmachary, R. L. (1991) "The Effect of Birds Upon Germination of Banyan (Ficus bengalensis) Seeds". Journal of Tropical Ecology. 7(4):537-538.
- "National Tree". Govt. of India Official website.
- Simoons, F.J. (1998). Plants of Life, Plants of Death. University of Wisconsin Press. ISBN 9780299159047.
- Bar-Ness, YD (March 2013). "Giant Banyans - The World's Largest Trees?". GEO (89).
- Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Fig". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
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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