banyan

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banyan (băn´yən), species of fig (Ficus bengalensis) of the family Moraceae (mulberry family), native to India, where it is venerated. Its seeds usually germinate in the branches of some tree where they have been dropped by birds. The young plant puts forth aerial rootlets, which, on reaching the ground, take root to form secondary trunks to support the giant horizontal limbs. Branches from these trunks ultimately send down more such prop roots until the banyan crowds out the host tree and becomes grovelike in appearance, often covering large areas. This undergrowth is sometimes trimmed to form arbors. Alexander the Great is said to have camped under a banyan tree that was big enough to shelter his whole army of 7,000 men. The seeds frequently germinate on walls and buildings, causing considerable damage, as do the related strangling figs of tropical America. Banyan is classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Magnoliopsida, order Urticales, family Moraceae.

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banyan an Indian fig tree, the branches of which produce aerial roots which later become accessory trunks, so that a mature tree may cover several hectares in this manner.

Recorded from the late 16th century, the word comes via Portuguese from Gujarati vāṇiyo ‘man of the trading caste’, from Sanskrit. Originally denoting a Hindu merchant, the term was applied, by Europeans in the mid 17th century, to a particular tree under which such traders had built a pagoda.


In naval slang, banyan day (recorded from the mid 18th century) means a day on which no meat is served, originally with reference to the vegetarianism of banyans, or Hindus of the trading caste.

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ban·yan / ˈbanyən/ • n. (also banyan tree) an Indian fig tree (Ficus benghalensis) whose branches produce aerial roots that later become accessory trunks. A mature tree may cover several acres in this manner.

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banyan Evergreen tree of e India. The branches send down aerial shoots that take root, forming new trunks. Such trunks from a single tree may form a circle up to 100m (330ft) across. Height: to 30m (100ft). Family Moraceae; species Ficus benghalensis.

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banyan see BANIAN.