The Banyan tree ignites the imagination and has for centuries.
It is easy to see why. It has multiple sinewy, strong, tail-like “trunks” that are actually aerial roots that drape to the ground, overlap and grow together in a mass.
It was commonly called the Dragon’s Tree because people thought the tree’s trunk resembled hanging dragon tails.
As you look at this tree you can easily imagine it as an awesome treehouse, a pirate’s hiding place, a wizard’s home or as the inspiration for a frightening tree that comes alive with a great branches entangling prey like a giant python.
For such a majestic monster, this tree begins life as an epiphyte, a plant that lives off another plant. The seeds lodge in a crevice of the host tree and take hold sending long roots down to the ground. In time, the roots engulf the host tree which dies, leaving a hollow columnar center that is the banyan tree’s core.
The aerial and surface roots mature into thick, woody trunks that spread and can resemble a cluster of trees, but are actually one. The largest Banyan trees are in India, where it is native, and where it is regarded as sacred and the source of many medicines.
The name comes from a word meaning merchants as it was under the canopy of Banyan trees that Hindu merchants sold their wares.
Here in zone 10, the Banyan is a wonderful shade tree that is a delight to behold.