1. Family: Moraceae Gaudich.
    1. Genus: Ficus Tourn. ex L.
      1. Ficus benghalensis L.

        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.

    [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 .

    Building material

    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 benghalensisbenefits 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.

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

    Images

    Distribution

    Found In:

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

    Introduced Into:

    Chagos Archipelago, Jamaica, Mauritius, Queensland, Rodrigues, Réunion, St.Helena, Trinidad-Tobago

    Common Names

    English
    Banyan

    Ficus benghalensis L. appears in other Kew resources:

    Date Identified Reference Herbarium Specimen Type Status
    Hutson, A.M., British Indian Ocean Territory 34460.000

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

    Accepted in:

    • [2] (2014) Journal of Economic and Taxonomic Botany 38: 563-619
    • [3] (2012) Smithsonian Contributions to Botany 98: 1-1192
    • [4] (2012) Taiwania 57: 193-216
    • [5] Lambdon, P. (2012) Flowering plants & ferns of St Helena . Pisces publications for St Helena nature conservation group.
    • [7] Govaerts, R. (2001) World Checklist of Seed Plants Database in ACCESS E-F: 1-50919
    • [8] Sheppard, C.R.C. & Seaward, M.R.D. (eds.) (1999) Ecology of the Chagos archipelago . Westbury Academic & Scientific Publishing, Otley.

    Literature

    • [1] (2016) Phytotaxa 250: 1-431
    • [6] Lambdon, P. (2012) Flowering plants & ferns of St Helena . Pisces publications for St Helena nature conservation group.
    • [9] Sheppard, C.R.C. & Seaward, M.R.D. (eds.) (1999) Ecology of the Chagos archipelago . Westbury Academic & Scientific Publishing, Otley.
    • [10] 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.
    • [11] (1995) Journal of Economic and Taxonomic Botany 19: 235-250
    • [12] Huxley, A., Griffiths, M. & Levy, M. (eds) (1992). The New Royal Horticultural Society Dictionary of Gardening, 4 vols. Macmillan, London.
    • [13] (1985) Flore des Mascareignes 161-169: 1. IRD Éditions, MSIRI, RBG-Kew, Paris.
    • [14] Usher, G. (1974). A Dictionary of Plants Used by Man. Constable, London.
    • [15] (1957) Atoll Research Bulletin 58: 1-37
    • [16] 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.
    • [17] Plant Cultures website.

    Sources

    International Plant Names Index
    The International Plant Names Index (2016). Published on the Internet http://www.ipni.org
    [A] © Copyright 2016 International Plant Names Index. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0

    Kew Species Profiles
    Kew Species Profiles
    [B] http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0
    [C]

    Kew Library Art and Archives
    [D] Digital Image © Board of Trustees, RBG Kew http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

    World Checklist of Selected Plant Families
    World Checklist of Selected Plant Families(2016). Published on the Internet http://apps.kew.org/wcsp/
    [E] See http://kew.org/about-kew/website-information/legal-notices/index.htm You may use data on these Terms and Conditions and on further condition that: The data is not used for commercial purposes; You may copy and retain data solely for scholarly, educational or research purposes; You may not publish our data, except for small extracts provided for illustrative purposes and duly acknowledged; You acknowledge the source of the data by the words "With the permission of the Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew" in a position which is reasonably prominent in view of your use of the data; Any other use of data or any other content from this website may only be made with our prior written agreement. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0
    [F] © Copyright 2016 International Plant Names Index and World Checkist of Selected Plant Families. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0