The tree is believed to have been planted around 1925 as a sapling and is considered the largest banyan tree in the Continental United States. This magnificent banyan tree is growing at the Edison and Ford Winter Estates in Fort Myers, Florida. It has a canopy covering at least one acre of land. Banyans have broad flat leaves with small reddish brown fruit like a fig that is a favorite for all kinds for birds. During fruit season, the banyan can be a very noisy and busy place for wildlife.
Banyans need a lot of space to spread themselves out and as the tree grows and matures, new roots grow from all its branches, pushing into the ground forming “pillar-like” new trunks. It has one main trunk with many dozen trunks or “aerial roots” pushing downwards. A single tree can resemble a small forest.
Banyans are also known as the “many footed tree” and “trees that walk.” Unlike other trees that have to stay rooted, the Banyan tree actually moves forward slowly with every new trunk it puts out. There are lots of cozy niches and cubbyholes for many creatures such as bats, squirrels, snails, snakes and all kinds of insects. For this reason, the banyan provides a safe and friendly environment for all kinds of creatures, including humans.
Banyan gets its name from a Hindi word “banian” which means “trader.” It is a center of every village life in India and many merchants and traders passing by usually set up under the spreading cool branches of a banyan. Banyan is also venerated and honored by many cultures as a symbol of resilience, longevity, serenity, generosity and wisdom.
Planted around 1925, the Edison and Ford Estates banyan tree stayed firmly rooted to the ground as a hardy survivor during Hurricane Irma, anchored by its many dozen aerial roots. Banyans are one of more than 800 species within the genus Ficus.
The banyan tree was one of more than 17,000 plant specimens that were tested by Edison as possible source of rubber that could be grown in the United States. It produced latex but the slow growth of the tree made this an impractical option. They were looking at a plant that could be harvested many times a year for its latex.
Banyan, a symbol of resilience: A year after Hurricane Irma, several of Marco Island’s landmark banyans are doing great. Not mature enough to have sprouted aerial roots, many were the victims of Irma’s high winds. One of them got toppled down but its owners made the brave successful effort to save it. They immediately hired a crane to lift it back up. Other banyans lost major limbs but are now covered with healthy green leaves.
To view the Banyans visit Edison & Ford Winter Estates, 2350 McGregor Blvd., Fort Myers, Florida.