The Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose Indian Botanic Garden in Howrah near Kolkata in India is home to a very special tree: The Great Banyan. It is over 250 years old and its enormous canopy made it the widest tree in the world.
The Banyan is an epiphyte. It starts its life growing on a host tree, dangling roots from the branches it sits on. Over time it grows, its roots reach the ground and it becomes strong enough to support itself. By growing more and more at some point it ‘strangles’ its host tree and stands as an independent tree. The Banyan is the National Tree of India. It bears red fruits that are not edible.
The Great Banyan was already mentioned in some travel books from the 19th century. In 1925 its main trunk was removed, because it had caught a fungus and started decaying after being struck by lightning. What remains are thousands of aerial roots that now serve as the stems holding up the tree, and a crown with a circumference of about one kilometre. Would you like to go for a walk ‘in’ this amazing tree?