From afar, the Great Banyan Tree in the Indian Botanic Garden appears like a whole forest. It’s only once you step into its shade and see the connection of branches that you realize it is one tree.
The Great Banyan Tree (photograph by Biswarup Ganguly)
With a canopy that spreads over 14,400 square meters, the Great Banyan Tree is the widest tree in the world. From this span, more than 2,800 aerial prop roots descend down into the earth, appearing like individual trees. It’s the main draw of the botanical garden, and although no one knows its exact origin, it has been showing up in guidebooks since the 1800s.
Main trunk of the Great Banyan Tree in the 19th century (via raj dip/Flickr)
It’s taken it over 250 years to reach this staggering stretch, and not without a few natural disasters that almost did in the whole giant arboreal wonder. In the 19th century, two cyclones hit the tree, breaking it open and exposing its main trunk which led to a damaging fungal attack. By 1925, the main trunk, which once measured over 50 feet wide, had to be removed. Yet as the sign at the tree states: “interestingly enough, the tree now lives in perfect vigor without its main trunk.”
The clonal colony continues to flourish to this day, spreading further and wider into the land around it, spawning a visual forest that is all its own.
(photograph by McKay Savage)
THE TREE THAT IS A FOREST: GREAT BANYAN TREE, Howrah, India
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