|Ref: ITIS 506543|
Banyans are a type of tropical fig tree of the genus Ficus (Family Moraceae). Banyans are large trees that usually start life as a seedling epiphytic on another tree (or on structures like buildings and bridges), where a fig-eating bird has deposited the seed. The seedling quickly develops aerial roots from the branches, which grow into full stems once they touch the ground. The original host is eventually strangled or split apart by the banyan's rapid growth, and one common name for these trees is "strangler figs". This characteristic of developing aerial roots allows a single tree to spread over a large area. The biggest banyan tree in Poona, India is said to measure half a mile around its perimeter. Like other members of this genus (which includes the common edible fig or F. carica), banyans have a unique fruit and insect mediated fertilization process (see Ficus). There is typically only one species of wasp capable of fertilizing the flowers of the fig, and therefore plantings of banyans outside of their native range results in effectively sterile individuals. For example, in Hawai'i, some 60 species of figs have been introduced horticulturally. However, only four of the wasps that ferilize Ficus have been introduced, so only four species of figs produce viable seeds. Figs are easily propagated from cuttings.
The Indian banyan (Ficus benghalensis) can grow into a giant tree covering several hectares. It is originally from India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, but has been imported in other tropical regions. The first banyan tree in the U.S. was planted by Thomas Alva Edison in Fort Myers, Florida.