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Ficus benghalensis
F. benghalensis shoot in Karnataka, India
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Urticales
Family: Moraceae
Genus: Ficus
Species: F. benghalensis
Binomial name
Ficus benghalensis
L.
Synonyms

Ficus indica L.

Ficus benghalensis, also known as Bengal fig, Indian fig, East Indian fig, Indian Banyan or simply Banyan, also borh, nyagrodha and wad or Vad/Vat or Peral, is a species of banyan endemic to Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka. In Sanskrt the name is Vatavrkscha, which can be spelled alternately as WataWrkscha (the use of Sch a la German here denoting a difference of sound from the more common Sh), the name thus given understood all over India. It can grow into a giant tree covering several hectares. Ficus benghalensis produces propagating roots which grow downwards as slender vine. Once these roots reach the ground, they take root and grow into woody trunks that can become indistinguishable from the main trunk.

This tree is considered majorly sacred in India, and often shelters a little or larger temple underneath, but is offered worship on its own generally too, and especially so on one particular full moon day in summer when the full moon occurs near the last star of the constellation Scorpio but definitely before beginning of Sagittarius. Even apart from the worship, it is one of the most sheltering trees in the heat of the land, with a large and deep shade, and is thus extremely useful for travellers of the old sort - on foot, bicycles or oxcarts, or horse riders - travelling for hours or days; traditionally it was found almost ubiquitously on roads and in village centres, the latter very useful for any formal or informal gathering to be conducted in a cool place or even for any poor person or a traveller to sleep under. The respect for this and other trees of this nature is thus linked both to the use and the worship as sacred.

The figs are eaten by birds and mammals. Fig seeds are dispersed by birds such as the Indian Mynas and studies have shown that seeds that pass through the digestive system of the bird are more likely to germinate as well as sprout earlier.[1]

Contents

Large specimens

The Great Banyan in the Indian Botanic Garden, Howrah, is considered to be one of the largest trees in the world in terms of area covered. Two other well known large trees of this species are one in UP near Banaras and another in Karnataka near Bangalore, the latter known locally as Doddamara which in Kannada means large tree. The circumference of the whole complex of trees grown from the one central ancestor - still very much alive and all connected to it via the roots visible well over human height - is measured in kilometers.

On the banks of the Narmada stood a celebrated specimen, supposed to be that described by Nearchus, the admiral of Alexander the Great. This tree once covered an area so immense, that it was known to shelter no fewer than 7000 men, and though much reduced in size by the destructive power of floods, the remainder was described by James Forbes (1749-1819) in his Oriental Memoirs (1813-1815) as nearly 2000 ft. in circumference, while the trunks large and small exceeded 3000 in number.[2]

References

  1. ^ Midya, S.; R. L. Brahmachary (1991) The Effect of Birds Upon Germination of Banyan (Ficus bengalensis) Seeds. Journal of Tropical Ecology. 7(4):537-538.
  2. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg "Fig". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). 1911.  

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