Palm Beach is one of the few places in the U.S. where you can see a banyan tree – a type of sprawling, impressive fig tree usually found in India, China, and other parts of Asia.
The difference is that there are two types of banyan trees native to South Florida.
In this article, we will cover the banyan trees that grow in Palm Beach, the unique way that banyan trees grow, some characteristics of banyan trees, and more.
A Banyan Tree’s Unique Start
Unlike most other plants and trees, a banyan tree is not always grown by planting a seed. It has a much more interesting start.
First, a banyan tree fruit is eaten by a bird. The seeds work their way through the bird’s digestive system and are eventually deposited. If deposited in a cabbage palm, oak, or bald cypress tree, the seeds can germinate.
The germinated seed will grow roots that hang down from the palm or the tree branches, called aerial roots. After some time, these roots will touch the ground and become embedded there. The roots themselves turn into the trunk of the banyan tree, and other roots work their way underground to begin gathering water and nutrients for the newly formed tree.
The tree grows and produces more hanging roots, which also embed themselves in the ground. In this way, the banyan tree becomes massive and eventually shades or chokes out the palm or cypress tree that it initially grew from.
Banyan Trees in South Florida
“Banyan” is another word for ficus or fig trees. There are two types of banyan trees that are native to South Florida and Palm Beach:
- Shortleaf fig (Ficus citrifolia) native to South Florida, Caribbean islands, Central American and South America
- Florida strangler fig (Ficus aurea) is native to South Florida and the Caribbean islands.
Banyan trees found in other areas of the world are usually Ficus macrocarpa or Ficus pertusa. There is also the Moreton Bay fig (Ficus macrophylla) and Port Jackson fig (Ficus rubiginosa), which are related to banyan trees and are sometimes known as banyan trees. Banyan trees that are native to other parts of the world can be found in Florida, but they often are considered invasive.
Shortleaf Fig (Ficus Citrifolia)
Ficus is the Latin word for fig, and citrifolia means “citrus-like leaves.” The leaves of the shortleaf fig, which are shorter than other fig trees, do look similar to the leaves of many citrus trees, so this tree is aptly named.
It also goes by the name wild banyan tree (one word).
Shortleaf figs are more cold-sensitive than Florida strangler figs, so they tend to grow in the southernmost parts of Florida. You can tell it is a shortleaf fig by the red fruit or the smaller leaves. They also don’t grow as tall, reaching heights of about 40 to 50 feet.
Fun fact: Fig trees, including the shortleaf fig tree, create a sap called latex. This latex has been used to make chewing gum.
Shortleaf fig trees flower and produce fruit for most of the year, in part because a specific agaonid wasp relies on this tree (and this tree only) for pollen. Conversely, the tree is pollinated by only this species of wasp (classified as P. asseutus).
Some trees can bear many figs, which is important because these figs are a vital food source for “more species of animals than any other tropical perennial fruit.”
The trunk also provides shelter for various wildlife, insects, and birds.
Florida Strangler Fig (Ficus aurea)
Florida strangler figs are banyan trees that can pose many issues if you don’t understand how they grow and spread.
First of all, they need a lot of room to grow. They have been known to grow up to 70 feet tall and just as wide (or wider), thanks to the unique aerial root system.
The roots can pose a problem for lawns, walls, foundations, or even buildings. Strangler figs live up to their name in that they often strangle the host plant (palm or tree) that helped the first root and seedling develop.
The dense canopy does not let a lot of sunlight through, which is a death sentence for lawns, and the fruit can be messy as it drops and rots.
With all of that in mind, Florida strangler figs are unique, massive, majestic trees. If your Palm Beach property has enough room for one, it will surely be a showstopper.
Banyan Trees in Palm Beach County
You don’t have to go far to spot banyan trees in Palm Beach County.
Two historic banyan trees can be found in Palm Beach Gardens, moved there in the 1960s to serve as the entrance to the small city.
Banyan trees are also prevalent in Palm Beach neighborhoods, and many visitors are awed by these impressive trees.
Snug Harbor neighborhood in Palm Beach Gardens is known for the banyan trees that line its streets.
There’s even an art installation called the Wishing Tree in West Palm Beach that is meant to look like “an ancient 26-foot-tall banyan” during the day.
Contact Coastal Gardens for your Banyan Tree Care
If you have any type of banyan or fig tree on your Palm Beach property, Coastal Gardens Professionals are experts at caring for and maintaining these valuable trees.
Our specialists include ISA Certified Arborists, horticulturalists, Certified Pest Control Operators, and more.
Contact Coastal Gardens for more information about how our estate landscape services can help keep your Palm Beach property healthy, beautiful, and well-maintained.
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