I once wondered through a park under a shady canopy of green leaves, heavy with flowers and sweet fruit and flocks of colorful singing birds seeking shelter in the glossy foliage. The park extended for an entire city block and its tree branches reached sixty feet up in the air. Twisted trunks dove deep into the ground for nutrients, interweaving their roots to claim territory and support each other from the caprices of wind and water.

There is of course nothing unusual about this environment other than the fact that the park was one tree. The banyan will start as a single tree but in time the canopy grows and extends aerial roots to support and feed an ever expanding structure. The additional columns develop into real tree trunks, indistinguishable from the original. After a while the first trunk dies and the giant becomes a columnar tree, a large compact canopy supported by a forest of young trunks, with branches and roots that connect both above and below ground, a huge living being engendering its own microclimate.

Intricate and highly redundant vessels carry sap through and between related tree substructures ensuring that if one trunk is damaged, the forest-tree can carry on undisturbed, eventually growing another column to support the open span.

Of course not all banyan trees have room to expand to this gargantuan size and as most plants they will adapt to the amount of space and nutrients they have, even to the point where they can be grown indoors.

A banyan tree is a miniature paradise garden that thrives for centuries and provides food and shelter for a whole host of creatures. Birds and monkeys frolic through its branches delighting in the sweet figs that the tree offers and an enthralling perfume surrounds it when it blooms.

The banyan is a sacred tree in India and if its setting is favorable it can reach almost one hundred feet in height and six hundred feet in diameter. Its Sanskrit name translates as "a divine tree that fulfills wishes", it represents eternal life and is said to bring luck and happiness to those who cherish it.

How long does a banyan live? I couldn't find out. Definitely hundreds of years, but come to think of it since it continuously renews itself and therefore has no age it can pretty much live forever.

Author's Bio: 

Main Areas: Garden Writing; Sustainable Gardening; Homegrown Harvest
Published Books: “Terra Two”; “Generations”, "Letters to Lelia"
Career Focus: Author; Consummate Gardener;
Affiliation: All Year Garden; The Weekly Gardener; Francis Rosenfeld's Blog

I started blogging in 2010, to share the joy of growing all things green and the beauty of the garden through the seasons. Two garden blogs were born: allyeargarden.com and theweeklygardener.com, a periodical that followed it one year later. I wanted to assemble an informal compendium of the things I learned from my grandfather, wonderful books, educational websites, and my own experience, in the hope that other people might use it in their own gardening practice.