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THE BANYAN TREE.
“ So counsellid he, and both together went
Milton's Paradise Lost, Book IX.
The Banyan is a tree which attracts a particular notice on account of one distinguishing and remarkable property.
Its horizontal branches naturally extend to a great distance from the parent stem, and being unable to support their own ponderous weight, as they shoot forward, fibrous roots drop perpendicularly from them, and after touching the ground swell to the size of pillars, and bear up the loaded boughs with the utmost firmness. These stems are smooth columns, covered with bark of a silver colour, and put forth no shoots. When they first leave the tree they are of a brownish hue, as flexible as hemp, and wave in the air like ropes. After entering the earth, they become stationary, and are to be found about the tree, some measuring less than three inches, others upwards of eleven feet in circumference. A full grown leaf of this tree is five inches long, and three and a half broad. The fruit is the size of a small cherry, of a deep scarlet colour, and has a bright yellow circular spot round that part of it which touches the tree. The flower, like that of all other figs, is contained within the fruit. They afford food to monkeys and a variety of the feathered
race, but are not sweet to the taste, and are never eaten by man.
In the garden of Mr. John Shamier, Armenian merchant at Madras, there is a very remarkable specimen. Round this tree is a circle of low brickwork, ninety feet in diameter; the parent trunk measures twenty-eight feet in circumference, and is of a light brown colour. The tree has no appearance of decay, but seems flourishing in the prime of life, in full vigour. Thirty-seven descended stems are firmly rooted in the ground, and a considerable number of small fibres appear like loose ropes waving in the wind. Of the former, some measure only two and a half, others eleven feet in circumference, and they have descended from the height of from thirty to fifty feet. Immediately on the fibres reaching the ground, the gardener surrounds them with a hillock of earth, which at once gives them firmness and assists their growth. Lord and Lady William Bentinck, soon after their arrival at Madras in 1803, visited this tree, and were entertained by the Armenian proprietor at an elegant breakfast under its boughs.
The full height of a Banyan tree is from sixty to eighty feet, and many of them cover at least two acres.