Ever since I was a little girl I found myself utterly mesmerized at the sight of an enchanted forest. There were few things that could separate me from Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs or Alice and Wonderland. Those dark ominous branches deep within far away woodlands meant more to me than I even knew at the time.
Looking back, I now know they were a symbol of possibility, the possibility that if you challenge the darkest and most frightful of times, there’s bound to be an adventure along the way -and with adventure, there is always a happily ever after. Inversely, if you succumb to the darkness, you may never find your happy ending after all.
So, like many times before, I found myself in search of the most enchanted forests my feet could find. I was at A.L. Anderson Park in Tarpon Springs, Florida when I saw my very first banyan tree. I had been there a few times growing up and had never noticed it before.
It seemed out-of-place, near the water all alone. At first, I thought it must be an anomaly. Nevertheless, it was perfect for climbing, and oh so very enchanted-like.
It was about 6 months later when I spotted my second banyan tree in Sarasota, Florida. I was smitten that there was another tree, even bigger and more intricate than the first one I had seen. Then another, and another… They were everywhere in Sarasota. How is it that I had spent 16 years in Florida and had never known about these curious trees?
Soon after my second discovery I moved to Sarasota and began to see banyan trees everywhere. They started to become a part of my daily life. Pretty soon I was sitting beneath them to write, my son climbing them and running between their confusing labyrinthine branches, or trunks, or whatever they are…I still can’t tell.
The banyan trees were so impossibly extraordinary -so much that finally one day I had to know more! And so I began to research the life of a banyan tree.
What I Know About the Banyan Tree
The banyan tree is most commonly found in India and Bangladesh where it is considered sacred in both places. Naturally, this would be the case as I am almost always most attracted to places and things related to legend, myth, and lore. I don’t know why this is, but these sort of things just stand out to me…and so I read on.
The tree begins life as an epiphyte on a host tree, gathering its nourishment and water from the air. As it grows, its lateral branches send down supporting roots that become absorbing roots when they reach the ground. Eventually, the host tree is smothered as the banyan continues to send out more branches and roots.
The mature Banyan’s canopy may cover an area more than 1,000 feet in diameter. The stems below the canopy form a kind of columned room. – Banyantree.org
So where did this thing come from? Like most things in Florida, someone brought it here… That someone was good old Thomas Edison who planted the very first banyan tree in the Continental U.S. right in Fort Myers, Florida in the late 1800s. That’s right, just an hour south of Sarasota, Florida (light bulb turns on, pun intended).
This banyan tree, a gift to Mr. Edison from Harvey Firestone which once stood just 4 feet tall, now covers a colossal acre of land on the Seminole Lodge Estate (the former Florida retreat for Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Edison currently operated as the Edison and Ford Winter Estates). Pretty cool when you think about it, and that’s just a small part of the life of a banyan tree.
The Banyan Tree and Baby Krishna, India
In Hinduism, it is believed that the resting place for the god of Krishna is on the leaf of a banyan tree. It is a sacred tree and is thought of as perfectly symbolizing eternal life due to its seemingly unending expansion.
There is a banyan tree which has its roots upward and its branches down, and the Vedic hymns are its leaves. One who knows this tree is the knower of the Vedas.” -Krishna, in the Bhagavat Gita
Vat Vriksha” in Sanskrit, in Telugu known as: ‘మర్రి వృక్షము ‘ ; Marri Vrikshamu and in Tamil known as: ‘ஆல மரம்’ ; Ala Maram. The god Shiva as Dakshinamurthy is nearly always depicted sitting in silence under the banyan with rishis at his feet. -Wikipedia
The Lam Tsuen Wishing Trees are Banyan Trees, Hong Kong
A popular shrine in Hong Kong. The Lam Tsuen Wishing Trees are located near the Tin Hau Temple in Fong Ma Po Village, in Taipo Lam Tsuen. The temple was built around 1768 or 1771, during the reign of Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912).
During the Lunar New Year, tourists and locals frequent the banyan trees. At one time they burned joss sticks, wrote their wishes on joss paper (that they tied to orange), and would throw them up to hang among the tree branches. If it stuck, their wish would come true.
Sadly, in 2005, this practice stopped when a branch broke and injured people below. Now, wooden racks are used to replace the tradition, and the trees are well preserved.
The Banyan Tree is a Home to Evil Spirits, Philippines
In Philippine Mythology, the banyan is thought of as home to a host of spirits and demonic creatures.
Duende (elves), kapre (forest monster) tikbalang (half-man half-horse creature), manananggal (monster witch)….the list goes on, Philippine mythology is often a goldmine of fantasy and horror creatures. -365 Great Pinoy Stuff
Filipino children are taught to never point at a mature banyan to avoid pissing off any spirits. Instead, they are to whisper words of respect to the spirits to avoid harm, illness, suffering, and death. (source Wikipedia)
Fairies, Prehistoric People, and Ancient Chamorro Guard the Banyan Trees, Guam
In Guam, Chamorro people believe and tell legends of Taotaomona (prehistoric peoples), Duendes (fairies, goblins), and other spirits of the ancient Chamorro that are thought to be guardians of banyan trees. (source Wikipedia).
All in all, my research turned out to be quite for filling. My attraction to these mysterious earthbound wonders led me far from this tangible planet on a journey through thousands of years of mythology. I never would have imagined that my curiosity of a tree 10 minutes from my home would have taken me around the world.
The life of a banyan tree is far more complex than just this very superficial blog post. It is an interesting wonder that I will continue to investigate with time.
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50 thoughts on “The Life of Banyan Tree from Asia to Sarasota, Florida”
So freaking awesome!!
I know you are but what am I 🙂 LOLz
😛 Aah, you got me! lol
Its a beautiful article dear it is full of information
thank you very much dear loved it very much
Nice reading about you
Thanks for visiting my blog. Be in touch. Browse through the category sections, I feel you may find something of your interest.
Thank you I am thrilled that you liked it 🙂 Love all your flowers!
Oh dear that article and the pics were great
we in India worship the Banyan tree and it is very very sacred to us dear
thank you very much dear for sharing it excellent
I know! I was so amazed at the history that the Banyan has. The tree is special to me as well. So glad you liked the article. I love, love, love these trees!
yes dear likewise there is another tree which is very very sacred to us that is known as ” Pipal “,
Ficus religiosa or Sacred Fig, I am putting a article on that too
Awesome I will link it!
yes it will take sometime dear because I take pictures first
sure, just give me a heads up. I can’t wait to see it 🙂
oh dear just good tree and good pictures dear
Fantastic article and photos, Christa.
Thank you Scott! Now for shoes!!
Great post. I have so many childhood memories of climbing banyan trees – I always thought if I could get to the top (I never did) there must be something magical there that you couldn’t see from the ground! Jx
That is a pretty cool little story 🙂 They do seem magical.
What a fantastic tree! This is a really outstanding post, brilliant work!
Thank you!!! I love when you dig my stuff 😉
What a fantastic post! I love the pics so very much, so magical. Bron
Wow, so beautiful! Love the history behind the trees too! We have plenty of fairytale forests in these parts, no banyan trees though!
Whooaahh, those trees are incredible. And the little… I mean he almost stole the show. What a sweetie.
We encountered a banyan tree on the trail down to Rainbow Falls in Hilo, Hawaii that could have kept the kids occupied for the whole day if we had let them. It was so big, yet the branches are perfectly spaced for climbing. I enjoy all your details about how banyan trees are regarded around the world.
Aren’t they just the most fascinating things!!! I’m glad you enjoyed the post xoxo
There are some nice ones here in Hawaii. I actually “visited” the one that was in the TV show Lost. I thought that was pretty cool. Love the site.
Thank you Ken!
Learned so much reading this. What an impeccably-researched post. Thanks so much for sharing.
I am so SO VERY happy to hear you enjoyed it! These are such fascinating trees! I completely adore them and never stop taking photos of them! They truly enchant me.
Wonder whether they exist in Australia? They really remind me of some trees I just couldn’t stop photographing.
I have that problem all the time!
That’s the first place I ever saw them, so yes, they do exist in Australia! 🙂
Great read! Love the photos, too!
I love these trees!! And how fascinating to learn the history of banyan trees in Florida! I had no idea they were so prominent in folklore around the world, either!
I had no idea either! You can imagine my delight when I found out!!
I love these trees! I saw one in Maui and it was so fascinating. I had so much fun just walking around and exploring it. Very cool to know there are more of them around.
Agreed, I can’t stop playing on them!
Great photos, and very interesting post! We have been seeing these huge fairytale looking trees all over Asia (Sri Lanka, Philippines, and Cambodia at least). I think these are the kind of trees that are about to take over Angkor Wat in Cambodia, the one from the Tomb Raider film?
Oh thank you! You know I totally forgot about them in the film. Great call! I haven’t seen that movie in so long… They are such fascinating trees aren’t they?
Very impressive, reminds me of some trees we saw in Brazil once!
Probably were the same!
Loved this article about Banyan trees very much. Great work about the history of Banyan tree at various places of the world. We are visiting florida ….so I would like to visit these trees and we will for sure..
Can you please let me know the locations exactly where they are found near to Orlando,FL.
You know I don’t know they are that far north. I’ve only seen them in Sarasota and south. Thank you by the way for the kind words. They are truly magical and fascinating.
Oh ok,Thank you.Can you please let me the locations in Sarasota,FL.
Sure you can find some stunning ones at Marina Jack in downtown Sarasota on the south side of the marina in the park as well as at the Ringling House on the Sarasota Bay (very close to the marina) on the house grounds. Both of these locations are free. There is admission to the house which is totally worth it.
By the way, can we find any tender leaves on these trees as they are used in medical treatment.
could you pl give us an insight ?
That I can’t answer… no idea.