Banyan Tree: Full Guide (And 1 Thing You Never Expected…It Moves)

Banyan tree branches in large, wdie canpoy with banyan tree bark and banyan tree leaves.

Did you know that the Banyan tree is one of more than 700 species of fig trees?

That’s right! But, this strange tree has more cool facts than just its reddish (but not palatable) fruit. In fact, they are pollinated by tiny wasps that breed inside the figs!

But something you’ve probably never suspected…and even more amazing is that this tree moves. It actually “walks’ to another area in a wonderfully strange way.

Keep reading to find out more!

Banyan Tree

(Ficus benghalensis)

Banyan tree image in an oval frame on green background.
  • Family: Mulberry
  • Leaf Characteristics: Thick, leathery, and green to olive in hue
  • Bark Characteristics: Thick, White Colored
  • Seed Characteristics: Fig that begins its life as an epiphyte
  • Native Habitat: India and Pakistan
  • Height: Up to 100 feet (30 m)

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species Ranking

Not Evaluated


This comprehensive guide to the Banyan tree provides all sorts of wonderful and awesome facts about this incredible tree that actually moves laterally along…creating an intricate web of plants that resemble a complete forest!

What’s So Special About The Banyan Tree?

The Banyan tree is massive. But instead of growing like other trees from a seed, this one does something strange. It acts like a vine and propagates itself using “host” plants to establish its entangled trunks and broad branches.

So it figuratively “walks” along by putting down roots wherever and however it can… and then once it’s taken hold, it keeps putting down roots laterally as far as it can go!

Its canopy is thick with leaves and provides ample shade, creating a surreal tunnel the older it gets.

Banyan tree branches and trunk with large green canopy.

(Image: Brandon Green6)

In the capital of West Bengal, visitors view what initially appears as a forest. Branches that unite to build a wide canopy over the botanical garden are the length of a long city block.

Turns out that the ‘forest’ isn’t a collection of trees at all. It’s one tree, known as the Great Banyan Tree, a tree with over 3000 roots that unite in a dense configuration.

Related Reading: Wonderful and inspiring tree quotes

How a Banyan Tree Grows and Spreads

There are many species of the fig tree, and most are stranglers, which includes the Banyan tree. (Think honeysuckle vine and other grabby plants that use another as a prop.)

The process starts when a seed, left by a foraging animal or bird, survives on the branch of a neighboring tree, also known as the host tree.

The seed develops roots that eventually reach the ground and surround the host tree’s trunk. The roots interlock and tangle with the host’s trunk and form a barrier that constricts the trunk and forces it to compete for sustenance.

This invasion of territory sometimes kills the host tree. And therefore the emerging Banyan tree is more a collection of massive roots, than a traditional tree trunk.

Banyan Tree Characteristics

Because of their strange nature, Banyan trees have specific characteristics.

Banyan tree identification chart showing Banyan tree leaves, Banyan tree fruits, and Banyan tree bark images in circle frames on a green background.

Here are some of the Banyan tree characteristics to help with identification.

Banyan Tree Leaf

The Banyan tree leaves are large, about 4-8 inches long, and 3-6 inches across. They are thick and leathery, and their hue is green to olive.

Banyan tree leaf identification chart with images of Chinese Banyan leaf, Indian Banyan leaf, Sacred Fig leaf, Rubber Fig leaf, and Weeping Fig leaf in circle frames.

The leaf’s shape is oval, with a point, and its margins are smooth. The petiole (the stalk part that connects the leaf to its stem), is short and layered with fine hairs.

Roots of Banyan Tree

Older Banyan trees have aerial roots (above the ground) that mature into thick trunks, which eventually blend into the primary trunk with age.

Old trees spread laterally by using their dangling roots to grow over wide areas that, with time, can resemble a grove of trees, with all trunks attached directly or indirectly to the original trunk.

Banyan Tree Scent

The Banyan tree exudes the fine scent of a sweet floral fragrance, like many vine-like plants.

Banyan Tree Fruit (Banyan Tree Figs)

The tree produces figs. However, unlike many figs, the reddish fruit of the Banyan tree is barely edible.

How Tall Will a Banyan Tree Grow?

The Banyan reaches a height up to 100 feet and grows in lateral directions.

Graphic of Banyan Tree seed pod identification chart with chinese banyan, dye fig, weeping fig, rusty fig, and shortleaf fig in oval frames.

In time, one tree can become reminiscent of a small forest.

Banyan Tree Flowering

While this tree does produce fruit, its blossom is concealed when the flowers are housed within the fleshy fig-like fruit.

Banyan tree flower yellows close up

(Image: EllenChan8)

In fact, the leaf grows tiny blossoms and is a refuge for many insect varieties.

Banyan Tree Native Growing Regions

The Banyan Tree doesn’t grow well in cold climates. In the U.S. it only flourishes south of Miami, Florida. Its main regions of growth remain in India, its birthplace.

Banyan tree roots and native growing areas with graffiti markings

(Image: DebraJean9)

When trying to clarify the Banyan tree, people relate the name to any of hundreds of fig trees that pollinate a singular species of tiny wasps that breed in the fruit of partner trees.

All banyans belong to the variety known as strangler figs, which means the tree grows from a seed that lands on a neighbor tree and sends its roots down to smother their hosts and then grows into branch-supporting pillars that take on the look of new trunks.

This allows it to ‘move.’

Banyan Tree Cultivation

Banyan trees can be planted from branches or seeds. Cuttings are cut from the tips and rooted or harvested a stem half-inch below and above a leaf.

Graphic of Banyan tree seed pod identification chart showing Chinese Banyan (Ficus microcarpa), Dye Fig (Ficus tinctoria), Weeping Fig (Ficus benjamina), Rusty Fig (Ficus rugibinosa), and Shortleaf Fig (Ficus citrifolia) images in circle frames on green background.

As a houseplant, the Banyan tree grows well in well-drained and somewhat moist soil. The soil needs to be saturated and left to dry out between watering.

Gardeners should ensure the tree doesn’t languish in water because its leaves can fade to yellow and fall off the branch with heavy saturation.

Growing the Banyan Tree in your Garden

It’s an arduous task to grow a Banyan tree in any garden. While the oak tree takes care of itself, the Banyan tree is a fussy fellow.

That’s mainly due to the extensive room needed for it to grow, but also to the work needed to cultivate it.

In the early stages of growth, the proper location and the right ‘food’ make all the difference. So, if you’re one of the brave souls who want to cultivate the tree, make sure that you have plenty of space.

Many people suggest that growing a Banyan tree in the U.S. isn’t the best idea. As an invasive species (one that naturally doesn’t grow here), the unintended impact is unknown.

For example, Kudzu plants were imported from Asia to the U.S as a means to help control runoff in some places. But the species quickly took over, and because it kills the plants underneath, can threaten the existence of native species. Moving an unknown species into an area is as dangerous as depleting the rainforest because an invasive species can be a deadly addition to the delicate balance of an ecosystem.

Related Reading: 13 Awesome and Interesting Facts About the Amazon Rainforest

Banyan Tree Folklore and Strange Facts

Banyans are the world’s largest trees in the amount of ground they cover. The largest one alive grows in Andhra Pradesh in India. Its mass covers five acres and can shelter tens of thousands of people.2

  • Banyans grow large amounts of figs that feed many kinds of birds and primates. The sticky figs travel with the animal and help disperse the seeds. This action is called an ecological linchpin.
  • The first Europeans to see a Banyan tree were the Greeks on their way to invade India 2400 years ago.
  • When the English poet John Milton wrote Paradise Lost, he noted that the Banyan tree served Adam and Eve when they wore their first clothes.
  • Hindu scriptures claim that Krishna stood under a Banyan tree when he delivered the sermon of the Bhagavad Gita.
  • Hindu texts from 2000 ago speak of the cosmic tree—a banyan with its roots in the sky while the trunk and branches dangle down to earth and provide humanity with blessings.
  • The Colonial British hung many rebels from Banyan trees while India fought for its independence. The banyan became India’s national tree after independence was achieved.

Banyan Tree in Religious Worship

Trees hold great significance in Hinduism, are considered sacred, and are associated with Gods and Goddesses.

  • The Banyan tree is venerated in Hinduism because of its ability to live for centuries and is considered God’s shelter.
  • Its large leaves are often used in worship and rituals. The tree is considered a symbol of immortality and Brahma the Creator.
  • The Goddess Shiva represents the main trunk and is worshiped beneath the tree’s abundant canopy.

Medicinal Qualities of Banyan Trees

People have used banyans as a source of medicine for millennia.

The following information is not medical advice and should not be used as such. Before taking any home remedies or natural substances, always consult with a qualified physician. 

People in Nepal use the banyan root, leaf, and bark to heal many maladies health conditions  including:

  • Treats diarrhea: Soak small budding leaves in water and you have an astringent good for healing, and irritation of the GI tract.
  • Prevents tooth decay and gum disease: Chewing on the roots prevents gum disease, tooth decay, and bleeding gums. The roots are like natural toothpaste and also help eliminate bad breath. The root has cleansing powers that help prevent and treat most oral health issues.
  • Boosts immunity: The bark of the Banyan tree is a good immune-boosting agent.
  • Prevents inflammation: The tree’s sap has anti-inflammatory properties and treats arthritis.
  • Prevents depression: The extracts from the fruit of the Banyan tree is said to increase serotonin levels in the brain and alleviate depression.
  • Lowers cholesterol: There are two types of cholesterol in our body- ‘good’ and ‘bad’. The bark of the Banyan tree works great in lowering the bad cholesterol while keeping the good cholesterol level high.
  • Diabetes: An infusion of the roots helps treat high blood sugar levels.

Culinary Uses of Banyan Tree

The reddish fruit of the Banyan tree is barely edible. People resort to eating it only when famine strikes. While the leaves are somewhat suited for consumption, they’re often used as plates and for food wrapping.

Banyan tree leaf close up, showing dark green, pointed leaves.

(Image: Yawan Sahu7)

The leaves are also used to flavor fire-cooked foods.

Conservation of Banyan Trees with Community Effort

A conservation project in India was established to help spread awareness and education in local communities to educate citizens about the great importance of the Banyan tree.

Fifty Banyan trees have been protected by erecting fences around the hanging roots. Thirty more trees are planned for protection in 2022.

The hanging roots need support to help extend the spreading of branches. The project hopes to save the roots from being cut by humans and eaten by goats. The roots need protection for two years during the tree’s growth. Protecting them will help them reach the ground.

Banyan Tree Manufacturing

The wood from the root branches is useful and strong. It is used for tent poles, wall art, shafts, table slabs, and other load-bearing wood products

Banyan tree bark and trunk close up, showing light grey bark with rings and ridges.

(Image: SandeepHanda10)

These facts add to the number of how many trees cut down each year, as the Banyan tree is used for a variety of products.

How Much Carbon Does a Banyan Tree Sequester?

The amount of carbon emissions any tree can absorb depends on the size and age of the tree. Since Banyan trees are so large and so widespread, it’s difficult to estimate how many emissions they can remove from the atmosphere. Although it’s not listed as one of the 8 endangered tree species helping fight climate change, it could certainly be listed under weird trees categories, and the fact that the Banyan can live for so long, storing CO2 in it’s roots and trunk, make it a valuable part of the global ecosystem.

Understanding more about the Banyan tree is a great way to help spread the love of trees and the power tree carbon offsetting can have on the health of the planet.

Calculate the Banyan Tree’s Carbon Sequestration Now

Protecting trees is a primary goal for many of carbon offset companies, that are dedicated to planting trees carbon offset projects. You can get involved with these providers and who your support and love of trees, including the Banyan Tree by measuring ‘my ecological footprint‘ now.

Frequently Asked Questions About Banyan Trees

Can We Live Without Trees?

The answer to the question, “can we live without trees?” is no. Humans cannot survive on the planet without the life-giving interaction that trees provide.

Where Does the Banyan Tree Live?

Banyan trees mostly live in India, their native habitat, but are also located in other tropical regions.


1CABI 2022 Ficus Benghalensis. 18 March 2022. Web <>

2Under the Banyan 2022. 18 March 2022. Web <>

3How Stuff Works 2022. 18 March 2022. Web. <,found%20in%20areas%20of%20Florida>

4Lybrate 2022. 18 March 2022. Web. <>

5Rufford 2022. 18 March 2022. Web. <>

6Macro shot of brown tree Photo by Brandon Green. Unsplash. Retrieved from <>

7Green leaf plant in close up photography Photo by Yawan Sahu. Unsplash. Retrieved from <>

8Photo by EllenChan. Pixabay. Retrieved from <>

9Photo by DebraJean. Pixabay. Retrieved from <>

10Photo by SandeepHanda. Pixabay. Retrieved from <>

11Featured Image and Species Information Image: Banyan Tree in Hawaii Photo by Fallon Michael. (2020, March 6) / Unsplash License. Cropped and remixed with text, shape, and background elements. Unsplash. Retrieved April 6, 2022 and October 11, 2022, from <>