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Native to India and Pakistan, banyan is a type of strangling fig. The plant begins life growing on other trees and eventually envelops them completely. Aerial roots hang down from the branches and these eventually become trunks. This circle of trunks deriving from one original tree can reach an enormous size - 200 metres in diameter and 30 metres in height.

Ficus benghalensis (banyan)

[KSP]

Kew Species Profiles

General Description
Banyan is a type of strangling fig native to India and Pakistan. Known in Hindu mythology as 'the wish-fulfilling tree', banyans represent eternal life.

Native to India and Pakistan, banyan is a type of strangling fig. The plant begins life growing on other trees and eventually envelops them completely. Aerial roots hang down from the branches and these eventually become trunks. This circle of trunks deriving from one original tree can reach an enormous size - 200 metres in diameter and 30 metres in height.

Their welcome shade has made them important gathering places. Known in Hindu mythology as 'the wish-fulfilling tree', banyans represent eternal life. 

Species Profile
Geography and distribution

Native to Asia (India and Pakistan). Naturally occuring in tropical forests throughout the subcontinent.

Description

Overview: Tree, often very large, up to 30 m tall, with many aerial roots which can develop into new trunks so that the tree goes on spreading laterally indefinitely; a single tree can thus cover a very wide area.

Leaves: The leaves are leathery, entire, ovate or elliptic, 20-40 cm long with prominent lateral veins.

Fruits: The figs are 1 to 2 cm in diameter, without stalks, in pairs in leaf axils, and when ripe are bright red.

Uses

Ornamental/Traditions and beliefs

The tree is sacred to Hindus and Buddhists in India and is frequently planted around temples. Being a majestic ornamental tree it is also planted in parks and along streets in the tropics. In temperate climates it is grown as a houseplant.

Production of shellac

Banyan is used in the production of shellac, an important ingredient of French polish. Shellac is derived from a resinous secretion called lac, produced by various insects living on the tree, the most commercially important of which is the lac insect ( Laccifer lacca ). Shellac has many industrial uses, and is an ingredient of hair lacquer. Lac dye is used in skin cosmetics.

Medicine

Banyan has many uses in traditional medicine, for example, the milky sap is applied externally for treating pains and bruises, and is a remedy for toothache. Despite this, scientists are only now beginning to investigate the plant, for example leucocyanids, which may have potential for treating diabetes, have been isolated from the tree .

Banyan wood is hard, and durable in water. Although considered to be of little value, it is used for furniture and house building. The wood from aerial roots is stronger and is used as poles and for cart yokes.

Fibres

Fibre from the bark is used for making paper and ropes.

Food and drink

Banyan fruits can be eaten fresh or dried, and the young leaves and shoots are also eaten as famine food.

Cultivation

A tender plant that is drought-resistant, it is grown indoors in the UK, however it is a common street tree in tropical countries. Use well-drained, organic compost and Ficus benghalensis benefits from regular feed with a balanced NPK fertilizer.

Its pollinator is a single species of wasp, Eupristina masoni , which is not present in the UK. Thus, no viable seeds produced away from the tropics.

Propagation by apical or inter-nodal cuttings in light, free-draining compost in a high heat and humidity environment. Plants exude latex when cut. To stop bleeding dip cut part into charcoal powder. It can also be propagated from fresh seeds soaked in hot water for 12 hours.

This species at Kew

Banyan can be seen growing in the Palm House at Kew.

Distribution
India
Ecology
Tropical forest, but frequently cultivated elsewhere in the tropics.
Conservation
Not threatened
Hazards

The latex of various species of Ficus can cause allergic skin reactions and contact with the eyes should be avoided.

[UNAL]

Bernal, R., G. Galeano, A. Rodríguez, H. Sarmiento y M. Gutiérrez. 2017. Nombres Comunes de las Plantas de Colombia. http://www.biovirtual.unal.edu.co/nombrescomunes/

Vernacular
caucho, caucho cartagenero

[CPLC]

Bernal, R., Gradstein, S.R. & Celis, M. (eds.). 2015. Catálogo de plantas y líquenes de Colombia. Instituto de Ciencias Naturales, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Bogotá. http://catalogoplantasdecolombia.unal.edu.co

Distribution
Cultivada en Colombia; Alt. 5 - 5 m.; Llanura del Caribe.
Morphology General Habit
Árbol

[KSP]
Use
Ornamental, medicinal, traditions & beliefs, food, fibres, dyes, construction.

Native to:

Andaman Is., Assam, Bangladesh, East Himalaya, India, Laccadive Is., Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka

Introduced into:

Afghanistan, Chagos Archipelago, Florida, Gilbert Is., Iran, Jamaica, Laos, Marianas, Mauritius, Myanmar, Palestine, Queensland, Rodrigues, Réunion, St.Helena, Trinidad-Tobago, Vietnam

English
Banyan

Ficus benghalensis L. appears in other Kew resources:

Date Reference Identified As Barcode Type Status
Hutson, A.M., British Indian Ocean Territory 34460.000
s.coll. [Cat. no. 4560] Ficus indica K001039317
s.coll. [Cat. no. 4560], India Ficus indica K001039322
s.coll. [Cat. no. 4560] Ficus indica K001039331
s.coll. [Cat. no. 4560] Ficus indica K001039321
Wallich, N. [Cat. no. 4560], Nepal Ficus indica K001039328
s.coll. [Cat. no. 4560] Ficus indica K001039320
s.coll. [Cat. no. 4560] Ficus indica K001039329
s.coll. [Cat. no. 4560] Ficus indica K001039326
s.coll. [Cat. no. 4560] Ficus indica K001039325
s.coll. [Cat. no. 4560] Ficus indica K001039330
s.coll. [Cat. no. 4560] Ficus indica K001039327
s.coll. [Cat. no. 4560] Ficus indica K001039319
s.coll. [Cat. no. 4560], Bangladesh Ficus indica K001039324
s.coll. [Cat. no. 4560] Ficus indica K001039318
s.coll. [Cat. no. 4560], Bangladesh Ficus indica K001039323

First published in Sp. Pl.: 1059 (1753)

Accepted by

  • Acevedo-Rodríguez, P. & Strong, M.T. (2012). Catalogue of seed plants of the West Indies Smithsonian Contributions to Botany 98: 1-1192.
  • Baksh-Comeau, Y., Maharaj, S.S., Adams, C.D., Harris, S.A., Filer, D.L. & Hawthorne, W.D. (2016). An annotated checklist of the vascular plants of Trinidad and Tobago with analysis of vegetation types and botanical 'hotspots' Phytotaxa 250: 1-431.
  • Balkrishna, A. (2018). Flora of Morni Hills (Research & Possibilities): 1-581. Divya Yoga Mandir Trust.
  • Barooah, C. & Ahmed, I. (2014). Plant diversity of Assam. A checklist of Angiosperms and Gymnosperms: 1-599. Assam science technology and environment council, India.
  • Bosser, J., Cadet, T., Guého, J. & Marais, W. (eds.) (1985). Flore des Mascareignes 161-169: 1. IRD Éditions, MSIRI, RBG-Kew, Paris.
  • Chaudhary, L.B., Sudhakar, J.V., Kumar, A., Bajpai, O., Tiwari, R. & Murthy, G.V.S. (2012). Synopsis of the genus Ficus L. (Moraceae) in India Taiwania 57: 193-216.
  • Dufour-Dror, J.M. & Fragman-Sapir, O. in Dufour-Dror, J.M. (2019). Alien Plant Species in Natural & Disturbed Areas in Israel Alien Invasive Plants in Israel, ed. 2: 1-246. Dan Perry Pub., Nature & Parks Authority, Israel Ministry of Environmental Protection.
  • Flora of North America Editorial Committee (1997). Flora of North America North of Mexico 3: 1-590. Oxford University Press, New York, Oxford.
  • Fosberg, F.R., Sachet, M.-H., Oliver, R. (1979). A geographical checklist of the Micronesian Dicotyledonae Micronesica; Journal of the College of Guam 15: 41-295.
  • George, A.S. (ed.) (1989). Flora of Australia 3: 1-219. Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra.
  • Ghafoor, A. (1985). Flora of Pakistan 171: 1-54. Department of Botany, University of Karachi, Karachi.
  • Govaerts, R. (2001). World Checklist of Seed Plants Database in ACCESS E-F: 1-50919.
  • Grierson, A.J.C. & Long, D.G. (1983). Flora of Bhutan 1(1): 1-186. Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh.
  • Lambdon, P. (2012). Flowering plants & ferns of St Helena: 1-624. Pisces publications for St Helena nature conservation group.
  • Lê, T.C. (2003). Danh l?c các loài th?c v?t Vi?t Nam 2: 1-1203. Hà N?i : Nhà xu?t b?n Nông nghi?p.
  • Newman, M., Ketphanh, S., Svengsuksa, B., Thomas, P., Sengdala, K., Lamxay, V. & Armstrong, K. (2007). A checklist of the vascular plants of Lao PDR: 1-394. Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh.
  • Sheppard, C.R.C. & Seaward, M.R.D. (eds.) (1999). Ecology of the Chagos archipelago: 1-350. Westbury Academic & Scientific Publishing, Otley.
  • Sikarwar, R.L.S. (2014). Angiosperm diversity assessment of Chitrakootthe legendary place of Vindhyan range, India Journal of Economic and Taxonomic Botany 38: 563-619.

Literature

Catálogo de Plantas y Líquenes de Colombia

  • ColPlantA (2021). "ColPlantA. Facilitated by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Published on the Internet; http://www.colplanta.org/"

Kew Species Profiles

  • Huxley, A., Griffiths, M. & Levy, M. (eds) (1992). The New Royal Horticultural Society Dictionary of Gardening, 4 vols. Macmillan, London.
  • National Institute of Science Communication (1948-1976). The Wealth of India: a Dictionary of Indian Raw Materials and Industrial Products. Council of Scientific & Industrial Research, New Delhi, 11 vols.
  • Plant Cultures website.
  • Sosef, M. S. M., Hong, L.T. and Prawirohatmodjo (eds) (1998). Plant Resources of South-East Asia, No. 5(3). Timber trees: lesser-known timbers. Backhuys, Leiden.
  • Usher, G. (1974). A Dictionary of Plants Used by Man. Constable, London.

Kew Backbone Distributions

  • Acevedo-Rodríguez, P. & Strong, M.T. (2012). Catalogue of seed plants of the West Indies Smithsonian Contributions to Botany 98: 1-1192.
  • Ananda Rao, T. & Ellis, J.L. (1995). Flora of Lakshadweep islands off the Malabar coast, peninsular India, with emphasis on phytogeographical distribution of plants Journal of Economic and Taxonomic Botany 19: 235-250.
  • Baksh-Comeau, Y., Maharaj, S.S., Adams, C.D., Harris, S.A., Filer, D.L. & Hawthorne, W.D. (2016). An annotated checklist of the vascular plants of Trinidad and Tobago with analysis of vegetation types and botanical 'hotspots' Phytotaxa 250: 1-431.
  • Barooah, C. & Ahmed, I. (2014). Plant diversity of Assam. A checklist of Angiosperms and Gymnosperms: 1-599. Assam science technology and environment council, India.
  • Bosser, J., Cadet, T., Guého, J. & Marais, W. (eds.) (1985). Flore des Mascareignes 161-169: 1. IRD Éditions, MSIRI, RBG-Kew, Paris.
  • Broicz, K. (1982). Flora Iranica 153: 1-15. Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt, Graz.
  • Chaudhary, L.B., Sudhakar, J.V., Kumar, A., Bajpai, O., Tiwari, R. & Murthy, G.V.S. (2012). Synopsis of the genus Ficus L. (Moraceae) in India Taiwania 57: 193-216.
  • Dufour-Dror, J.M. & Fragman-Sapir, O. in Dufour-Dror, J.M. (2019). Alien Plant Species in Natural & Disturbed Areas in Israel Alien Invasive Plants in Israel, ed. 2: 1-246. Dan Perry Pub., Nature & Parks Authority, Israel Ministry of Environmental Protection.
  • Flora of North America Editorial Committee (1997). Flora of North America North of Mexico 3: 1-590. Oxford University Press, New York, Oxford.
  • Fosberg, F.R. (1957). The Maldive islands, Indian Ocean Atoll Research Bulletin 58: 1-37.
  • Fosberg, F.R., Sachet, M.-H., Oliver, R. (1979). A geographical checklist of the Micronesian Dicotyledonae Micronesica; Journal of the College of Guam 15: 41-295.
  • George, A.S. (ed.) (1989). Flora of Australia 3: 1-219. Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra.
  • Kress, W.J., DeFilipps, R.A., Farr, E. & Kyi, D.Y.Y. (2003). A Checklist of the Trees, Shrubs, Herbs and Climbers of Myanmar Contributions from the United States National Herbarium 45: 1-590. Smithsonian Institution.
  • Lambdon, P. (2012). Flowering plants & ferns of St Helena: 1-624. Pisces publications for St Helena nature conservation group.
  • Lê, T.C. (2003). Danh l?c các loài th?c v?t Vi?t Nam 2: 1-1203. Hà N?i : Nhà xu?t b?n Nông nghi?p.
  • Newman, M., Ketphanh, S., Svengsuksa, B., Thomas, P., Sengdala, K., Lamxay, V. & Armstrong, K. (2007). A checklist of the vascular plants of Lao PDR: 1-394. Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh.
  • Sheppard, C.R.C. & Seaward, M.R.D. (eds.) (1999). Ecology of the Chagos archipelago: 1-350. Westbury Academic & Scientific Publishing, Otley.

Art and Illustrations in Digifolia
Digital Image © Board of Trustees, RBG Kew

Catálogo de Plantas y Líquenes de Colombia
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0

Colombian resources for Plants made Accessible
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Herbarium Catalogue Specimens
Digital Image © Board of Trustees, RBG Kew http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Kew Backbone Distributions
The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2021. Published on the Internet at http://www.ipni.org and http://apps.kew.org/wcsp/
© Copyright 2017 World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0

Kew Names and Taxonomic Backbone
The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2021. Published on the Internet at http://www.ipni.org and http://apps.kew.org/wcsp/
© Copyright 2017 International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0

Kew Science Photographs
Digital Image © Board of Trustees, RBG Kew http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Kew Species Profiles
Kew Species Profiles
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0

Universidad Nacional de Colombia
ColPlantA database
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0