Ficus benghalensis L.
Family : Moraceae
Common Name : പേരാൽ(Mal)
IUCN Status : Least concern (LC)
Barh or Banyan, a remarkable tree of India and tropical Africa sends down from its branches great numbers of shoots, which take root and become new trunks. A single tree thus may spread over a large area and look like a small forest. This tree is considered to be sacred in some places in India. A specimen in the Calcutta botanical garden is more than 100 years old. It has a main trunk 13 feet (4 m) in diameter, 230 trunks as large as oak trees, and more than 3,000 smaller ones. The largest banyan tree known is on the island of Sri Lanka. It has 350 large trunks and over 3,000 small ones. The banyan often grows to a height of over 21 meters and lives through many ages. Perhaps the most amazing part of this extraordinary tree is its flower. What we think of as the fruit is really a hollow, flower-bearing structure called a cyconia. The inside it is lined with hundreds of male and female flowers. The males carry pollen and the females bear seeds. Various parts of this plant are considered medicinal. The bark of this therapeutically valuable tree is attributed with tonic, astringent,cooling and diuretic properties in Ayurveda. A postal stamp was issued by the Indian Postal Department to commemorate this tree.
Spreading trees, to 30 m high; aerial roots numerous from the branches; bark 10-12 mm thick, greyish-white, smooth, exfoliating in irregular flakes; exudation milky latex; young parts softly pubescent. Leaves simple, alternate, spiral, 10-20 x 5-12.5 cm, ovate, base round or subcordate, apex obtuse, margin entire, coriaceous, glabrescent above, minutely pubescent beneath; 3-7-ribbed from base, lateral nerves 4-6 pairs, pinnate, prominent, intercostae reticulate; stipules lateral, 2-2.5 cm long, sheathing, white-puberulous, deciduous, leaving annular scar, glandular at apex below. Flowers unisexual; inflorescence a fig, sessile, in axillary pairs, globose, puberulous without; basal bracts 3, broad, round, glabrous, coriaceous, persistent, orifice plane, closed by 3 bracts in a 3-4 mm wide disc; internal bristles none; flowers of 4 kinds; male flowers dispersed with female, rather numerous near the mouth of the receptacles; pedicel 0.5-2.8 mm long; tepals 2-3, rather broad, shortly connate, brownish, glabrous; stamens 1; filament 0.8-1 mm; anther oblong, parallel, unequal, shortly mucronate, connective brown; female flowers sesile; tepals 3-4, shortly connate, brownish, glabrous, ovary superior, 1.5 x 1 mm, obovoid-globose, dark brown on stylar side; style erect or curved, tapering; gall flowers similar to female but pedicellate. Fig 1.5-2 cm across, ripening orange to red, achenes 2 x 1.5 mm, globose-ellipsoid, dark brown.
Use: Fruits edible. Latex is applied on teeth for tooth ache and pains of gums. The aerial root is used as tooth brush. Aqueous extract of the bark and aerial roots given for treatment of diabetes. The aerial roots are considered to heal fractured bones. The bark is the main content of the ayurvedic preparation ‘Nalpamarakoottu’.
Distribution : Indian subcontinent; widely grown as avenue tree
Flowering & Fruiting : May-August