June 8, 2022
Fun Fact: Banyan trees (Ficus benghalensis) can walk…
So you’d better tie up your ficus before it runs off to join an Entmoot. (I hope I’m not the only one chuckling at that joke, it’s a pretty good one).
Banyan trees, or strangler figs, start off life as epiphytes when their seeds land on the branches of another tree. Once the seed germinates, it sends aerial roots down around the trunk of its host tree, which eventually dies and rots away, leaving the hollow trunk of the banyan. As they grow, banyan trees continue to send aerial ‘prop roots’ down from their branches to support their massive structure. Eventually, the original trunk will die and one of the prop roots will become the new main trunk. This cycle can continue on for centuries with old trunks dying away and new prop roots carrying on, which is a sort of walking… I suppose.
One of the biggest known banyan trees is the Great Banyan near Kolkata, India. It covers more than 4.6 acres and can shelter over 20,000 people.