Earth-May3

Happy Earth Day!  Today, to celebrate our lovely planet, we write about the largest tree (by canopy area) on Earth, Thimmamma Marrimanu, a Banyan tree (Ficus benghalensis) which lives in Andhra Pradesh, India.  Banyan trees are fig trees which propagate from aerial dispersal—birds eat the fig seeds and (in due course) drop them on trees, rocks, or buildings.  The roots grow downward as aerial roots and then become tree trunks–so the tree is known to cover buildings or strangle other trees.  Banyans also reproduce by vegetative, “branching” propagation.  A whole twisted interwoven grove of banyan trees is often actually one tree.

Thimmamma Marrimanu (one tree with many trunks)

Thimmamma Marrimanu (one tree with many trunks)

Such is the case with Thimmamma Marrimanu which has spread out over eight acres and is at least 200 years old (though, as with clonal colonies like Pando, it can be difficult to ascertain the true age of Banyan trees).  Thimmamma Marrimanu is named after a devoted wife who was married to a Bala Veerayya (whatever that is).  When her husband died in 1434, Thimmamma committed sati and immolated herself on her husband’s funeral pyre.  A temple to the grieving (but misguided!) widow was built on the spot—then the tree sprouted from the temple.

A Banyan tree (Ficus benghalensis) growing over a temple

A Banyan tree (Ficus benghalensis) growing over a temple

Banyan trees are the national tree of India and they have become worked into the religions of South Asia. In Hinduism it is said that the leaf of the banyan tree is the resting place for the avatar Krishna. The fact that the Banyan tree forms a huge group of trunks and branches which seem heterogeneous but are actually a single entity is believed to have spiritual significance and underline greater truths about the interconnected nature of all living things.

maui-hawaii-banyan-tree