Introduction To Banyan Tree
Banyan Tree or Vata/Vada (in Ayurveda) belongs to the family of Moraceae and genus Ficus. There are around 800 species and more than 2000 varieties of the Ficus species, most of which are endemic to old world tropics. The seeds of the Banyan tree are scattered by fruit eating birds. Since most of the Banyan trees are present in forests so during the process of pollination, if a seed falls on the ground, it is unlikely to germinate. But if seeds land on the branches of another tree somehow, the seed germinates and the roots are sent down into the ground, in many cases, the tree may envelop the parts of the host tree or building structures giving banyans the casual name of “ Stranglers”. Ficus benghalensis belongs to the family Moraceae and are fast growing, evergreen trees found in monsoon and rain forests.
Species: benghalensis, indica
The banyan tree is found in all kinds of forests from plains to 1000 m of height from the sea level. Commonly it is found in India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh. It is widely planted in the tropic regions. It is planted throughout the forest tract of India. It is Hardy, drought-resistant and can withstand mild frost.
External features of the bark
The bark of the Banyan tree is around 12 to 18 mm in thickness, grey coloured having light bluish-green or grey patches, slightly curve, girth varies with the maturity of the tree. The surface is strongly fissured and rough due to the presence of a longitudinal and oblique row of lenticels, mostly circular and raised, split shortly in outer 2/3 of bark while inner portion shows a fibroid fracture.
The banyan tree is multipurpose in use and very attractive for the medicinal, socio-cultural and ethnobotanical properties. The tree provides habitat for a number of animals and plants and hence it is considered as one of the most important keystone species in the Gangetic flood plain and other ecosystems of Bangladesh. It is also considered as the most suitable plant for community plantation as a shade tree. Thus, there are good demands for the transplant of a banyan tree for mass scale plantation affairs in different countries of arid and semi-arid regions.
Propagation and Cultivation
The seeds of the banyan tree are diffused through small birds that eat the figs and excrete out the undigested seeds. Initially, the Banyan tree is an epiphyte and often utilises other mature trees as its hosts. The banyan tree is propagated primarily by root tip cutting or the eye cuttings. Initially, they demand moisture content, but once established, these trees are drought resistant. The plant may be grown indoors on a much smaller scale by a special method known as the Bonsai.
Root System Of Banyan Tree
- The root system is a descending portion of the plant axis. When a seed germinates, the radicle is the first organ to come out. It elongates to form a primary tap root that gives off lateral branches and thus forms the root system. It branches through large and deep areas in the soil and anchors the plant very firmly.
- The banyan tree is mainly composed of aerial roots that provide support to the big heavy
- A single type of root system under the soil is not enough to provide support to the big and heavy
standing banyan tree.
- Prop roots come out from the aerial parts of branches which touches the ground and later becomes
thicker and stronger.
- The banyan tree is a dicot tree and the underground roots of the banyan tree are Tap Roots.
The roots develop throughout the life of the plant. They grow longer from the tip, adding cells to the meristematic part of the roots and they grow fatter as they add cells around their tube-like bodies. At the tip of each root, there is a small group of tough, dead, hard cells called the root cap. The root cap is the strongest part of the root tip and its job is to push the root further into the dirt road in the search for the moisture and nutrients for the plant. Therefore the root cap helps in the geotropic movement of the roots and accept the pressure of the gravity.
Functions of Banyan Tree Roots
- Roots anchor the plant firmly to the soul (mechanical function).
- Roots absorb water and minerals salts and conduct them upwards (physiological
- By undergoing modification in their structure, roots perform special physiological functions like food storage, assimilation, absorption of atmospheric moisture, sucking from the host plant, better gaseous exchange and mechanical function like floating (buoyancy), stronger anchorage and climbing.
Useful Parts Of Banyan Tree And Their Properties
Bark, root-fibres, leaves, seeds and milky juice are mainly the useful parts of the Banyan tree. Different parts of the tree have been found to possess medicinal properties, for example,
- Leaves are good for ulcer, aerial roots are useful in gonorrhoea, seeds and fruit are cooling and tonic and astringent and is also used in diarrhoea, dysentery and diabetes.
- The bark of the Banyan tree is often utilised in ayurvedic medicine for the medication of diabetes.
- The fruit extract of the Ficus benghalensis has anti-cancer activity.
- Stem extract has analgesic property.
- Methanolic extracts of leaves and branches of the Ficus benchlands have antioxidant activities.
- Roots and bark have anti-diabetic and anti-inflammatory properties are results of the presence of flavonoids.