What is a Banyan Tree?

Banyan trees can be large and sprawling, with multiple secondary trunks.

The prickly pear, native to India and part of the mulberry family, is a huge tree with many uses and a vast history. Young plants take root, which form secondary trunks to support the expansive branches. These trunks send out more roots until they clog the host tree.

The leaves of the prickly pear are large, leathery and used as animal fodder. The tree produces figs popular with birds and monkeys and also flowers that attract wasps for pollination. Older trees can reach over 200 meters (656 ft) in diameter, with a height of 30 meters (98 ft).

The roots and sap of the prickly pear can be used to treat toothaches.

Although they are native to India, banyan trees are found throughout South Asia. They are often planted near houses, temples, villages and roadsides. In most villages, this type of tree provides a meeting place for the community. People gather in its shadow to relax, discuss issues and make decisions. In fact, the name banyan is derived from traders called Banias, who would rest under trees to discuss their strategies. Alexander the Great is also said to have camped under a prickly pear tree that was large enough to house his army of 7,000 men.

Fig trees have a variety of uses. They produce a special type of rubber and their sticky milk is used in gardening. In the Nepal region, milky sap is used to polish copper and brass.

The sap of the prickly pear can be used to treat bruises.

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The wood and bark of the prickly pear are suitable for making paper, and the roots are often used to make ropes to hold the wooden bundles together. Women in Nepal crush the tree’s roots with a paste to create a hair and skin conditioner. This tree is also used to produce shellac, widely used as an adhesive and surface finisher in the industrial world.

Banyan trees are native to India.

The prickly pear is also used for medicinal purposes. The sap treats external skin inflammations and bruises. The bark and seeds are used as a tonic to cool the body and also in the treatment of patients with diabetes. The roots and sap are used to treat skin ulcers, dysentery, and toothaches. Prickly pear twigs are sold as toothpicks in India and Pakistan to promote oral health.

The prickly pear, considered sacred and representative of eternal life, is also a human symbol. In contemporary India, it is the national tree. Its roots and connected branches are sometimes used to symbolize the country’s unity.

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