Ficus religiosa L.
Family : Moraceae
Common Name : അരയാൽ (Mal)
: अस्वत्थ (Hin)
IUCN Status : Least concern (LC)-
Deciduous trees, to 25 m high; aerial roots absent; bark grey, smooth; exudation milky. Leaves simple, alternate, new leaves pink, broadly ovate, base truncate or subcordate, apex caudate-acuminate, margin entire, undulate, glabrous, shining, coriaceous; 5-7-ribbed from base, lateral nerves 8-10 pairs, pinnate, slender, prominent beneath, looped near the margin, intercostae reticulate, prominent; stipules 1-1.5 cm long, lateral, ovate-lanceolate, puberulous; petiole 6-12 cm long, stout, glabrous, articulated, a gland at the apex below. Flowers unisexual; figs, sessile, axillary, in pairs, obovoid or globose, twig wall thick; basal bracts 3, ovate-obtuse, silky-puberulous, persistent, orifice, closed by 3 apical bracts in a disc 2-3 mm wide; internal bristles none; Flowers minute within the receptacle, 4 kinds; male flowers ostiolar, sessile, in one ring; tepals 2, ovate-lanceolate, free, reddish; stamen 1; filaments 0.2 mm; anther oblong, parallel; female flowers sessile; tepals 3-4, linear-lanceolate, free, brownish, glabrous; ovary superior, ovoid-oblong, 1 mm, red-brown, style 1.5 mm, lateral, stigma rounded; gall flowers similar to female. Fig 4-8 mm across, ripening pink, purple or black; achenes smooth.
Uses: A paste of the powdered bark is a good absorbent for inflammatory swellings and good for burns. Leaves and tender shoots have purgative properties and are also recommended for wounds and skin diseases. The bark is one of the content of ayurvedic preparation ‘Nalpamarakoottu’.
Religious: Peepal is unrivalled for its antiquity and religious significance. No other tree is claimed to have such long life - one in Sri Lanka, said to have been planted in the year 288 B.C., still lives and flourishes. The Prince Siddhartha is known to have sat in meditation under a Bodhi tree and there found enlightenment from which time he became known as the Buddha. So, from then on the tree was sacred to Buddhists. Hindus associate the tree with the three gods Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, Vishnu being reputed to have been born under a Peepul, which is therefore Vishnu himself in the form of a tree. A grand peepal tree is a perfect shade tree, and village meetings are often conducted under a peepal tree.
Distribution : Cosmopolitian, Widely planted in temple premises
Flowering & Fruiting : November-February