Ficus benghalensis, commonly known as the banyan, banyan fig and Indian banyan, is a tree native to the Indian Subcontinent. Specimens in India are among the largest trees in the world by canopy coverage. It also known as the "strangler fig" because it starts out as epiphyte that is, leaning on another tree that it ends up suffocating. Ficus benghalensis is an evergreen, fast-growing tree found mainly in monsoon and rainforests that can reach a height of 20 meters. It is resistant to drought and mild frost. It produces propagating roots which grow downwards as aerial roots on the branches that grow downward like lianas. Once these roots reach the ground, they take root and become woody trunks and supportive. The figs produced by the tree are eaten by birds such as the Indian myna. Fig seeds that pass through the digestive system of birds are more likely to germinate and sprout earlier.
Banyan trees reproduce easily by seed or by stake, and they often spread from the original place by means of aerial roots that anchor in the ground and begin to grow and thicken to the point that they "become independent" from the original trunk, thus managing to "emigrate" sometimes at great distances. The figs are eaten by all kinds of frugivorous birds such as the coppersmith barbet and the common myna. Seeds that have passed through the digestive system of birds are more likely to germinate and grow faster.
Banyan seeds can fall and grow near a tree, sometimes from the very tree from which they come, and they also usually bear fruit in a hollow in a trunk or in a wall or rock. Gradually they begin to grow as they have plenty of support as epiphytes on any object they can use to climb in search of sunlight. Under normal conditions, the tree grows until it reaches a level where it gets the most sunlight, so its height can vary considerably. For this reason, where this tree predominates in a place, rather than growing in height, they spread on the surface, looking for the gaps that are left without vegetation. In general, the crown of this tree extends over a diameter well above its height.
Ficus benghalensis is the national tree of India.
Ficus tree in front of Sarkaradevi Temple, Chirayinkeezhu, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala
The tree is considered sacred in India, and temples are often built nearby. 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 fourth Buddha called "Kassapa - කස්සප". The sacred plant is known as "Nuga - නුග" or "Maha nuga - මහ නුග" in Sri Lanka.
It is the tree under which Lord Adhinath the first Jain Tirthankara attained Kewal Gyan or spiritual enlightenment.
Medicinal Uses and Properties:
According to Ayurveda, it is astringent to bowels; useful in treatment of biliousness, ulcers, erysipelas, vomiting, vaginal complains, fever, inflammations, leprosy. ... The aerial root is styptic, useful in syphilis, biliousness, dysentery, inflammation of liver etc.