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Banyan Tree Root System: Are Banyan Trees Invasive?

Banyan trees are a species of tree known for its enormous size and unique roots. These trees start their journey as epiphytes in most cases. They’re mostly found in the tropical regions, and more specifically Sri Lanka, India, Bangladesh to mention a few.

Epiphytes are plants that tend to grow on other plants. The reason banyan trees are called epiphytes and not parasitic plants are because they only borrow structural help from the porophyte and not nutrients.

Banyan trees tend to grow huge in size while developing two kinds of root system within them. Their aerial roots are a unique sight since they grow large enough to look like stems of the tree.

Now, let us find out whether the root system of the banyan trees are invasive or not along with interesting facts about the tree and its roots.

Banyan tree root system explained

Banyan tree roots are invasive. They are known for their unique and strong root system. Initially, the roots that the tree grows are tap roots but with time, the tree becomes so enormous, that tap roots become insufficient to hold it up. This is why, these trees grow prop roots as well.

Roots are a modified part of a plant that works as both an anchorage and a medium for the plants to intake nutrients and water. These roots, together, create a system for a plant to live. Root systems are mainly classified into two types. They are- tap roots and fibrous roots

In tap root System, there is a major core root in this type of root arrangement. It spreads out and creates additional tiny roots, called “root hairs.” Typically, it penetrates rather deeply and grows faster than the trunk.

All dicotyledons, including the China rose, carrots, mustard, and other plants, have tap roots.

In fibrous root system, the roots of this system are very shallow, thin, and slow-growing; they don’t go very deep; they remain closer to the surface. The roots can gather nutrients and water in the form of a mat-like structure by staying near to the surface.

Every single monocotyledon, including rice, bananas, and other plants, has a fibrous root structure.

There are roots that do not fall into the above categories but they are not as common as the above two and one of them are the adventitious roots.

These are called adventitious roots because they do not grow from tissues that specifically work to grow roots, rather the adventitious roots grow from non-root tissues and can grow from both normal developments ( for eg. Golden Cane Palms) or due to adverse conditions like flooding, wounding, etc.

Banyan trees are flowering plants, thus they’re called dicotyledons. As mentioned above, almost all dicotyledonous plants have a tap root system. Banyan trees are not exceptions, and as a result, they have tap roots.

At the beginning of its life, a banyan tree grows with very strong and sturdy taproots that reach deep into the ground and grow root hairs. They also form root caps. Root caps are a cluster of hard, dead cells that grow on the tip of the roots. They work to keep the roots anchored deep into the soil and collect adequate nutrients.

As the tree grows, it becomes too enormous for the taproots to hold it up alone. That’s where the uniqueness of the Banyan Trees steps in.

Banyan Trees have two types of roots to hold them up due to their titanic size and strength. One of them is the taproots. The adventitious roots, known as the ‘prop roots’ grow as the trees grow older.

For all their beauty, banyan trees are epiphytes that is they grow on other trees before ‘strangling’ them and taking over. As a result, they have downward-growing stems. Which then produce strong aerial adventitious roots, known as the prop roots, which look like pillars to support the tree.

Does Banyan tree have deep roots?

Yes, banyan trees have deep roots. Moreover, Banyan trees are dicotyledonous.

As a result, they grow taproots. The Taproot system has a major root that grows large and deep, along with little root hairs that are fine, and lateral roots that grow on the main root.

At the initial stage of life, when the tree is not at its peak size, they form taproots that hold the tree up and provide them with necessary nutrients.

Even though at this stage they need a lot of water and nutrients, they grow drought-resistant as they grow older. That is solely because of their deep and vast root system.

Although, what is unique about these trees is not their deep roots but their ability to grow two types of roots, taproots, and adventitious roots.

Banyan trees grow aerial roots, known as the prop roots that grow from the stems and eventually reach the soil to support the tree as they grow old and gigantic. They become big enough to look like different stems and form pillars.

How Deep Are Banyan tree Roots?

Banyan trees have very deep and far-reaching roots.

Grown banyan trees are so enormous they vertically grow up to 80 feet (24 meters) and cover a space of 14,500 square feet (1,347 square meters) approximately, if not more. To uphold this giant tree, it needs a root system that will keep the tree anchored to the ground and standing, and for that, it needs a very deep root system.

Taproots tend to grow very deep, large, and strong. But even they, as the tree grows older and bigger, are not enough to hold the tree up.

As a result, there arise ‘prop roots’ from the downward-advancing roots of the banyan tree and eventually meet the ground to form pillar-like structures.

Prop roots are adventitious roots that remain aerial and the ones growing on a banyan tree become so hard and large that they look like new stems growing on the tree.

In conclusion, banyan trees are dicots, which bear taproots that grow deep into the soil to anchor the trees and provide them with the required nutrients. Thus, these roots are deep but what makes the whole tree remain standing as it grows old are the prop roots.

Can Banyan tree roots damage foundation or pipes?

Yes, both banyan trees and their roots can damage foundations and pipes.

Banyan trees are epiphytes, meaning, they tend to grow on other trees but aren’t parasitic since they accumulate their nutrients from around them and not from the plant on which they grow.

Banyan trees are epiphytes in the sense that their seeds germinate when they land on other trees and borrow physical strength from the porophyte before growing big and strong enough to take over that plant and be a plant of its own. Hence, they are often known as the “Stranglers.”

The seeds of these trees might germinate on the soil too, but in most cases, they expire. Due to their epiphytic characteristics, they grow some stems that advance downward and from them grows some strong and large adventitious roots that form pillar-like structures once they reach the soil.

From the above description, it’s easy to assume the enormous size of the tree for which it needs an enormous and very strong root system.

The taproots of the banyan tree and very invasive and grows anywhere that has abundance of water and nutrients. Therefore, they tend to hamper, destroy, or damage architectures if the trees are planted near houses.

Do Banyan tree spread or multiply?

Banyan Trees tend to spread extensively both above and below grounds.

Banyan trees are a species of enormous trees that can grow almost 80 feet (24 meters) tall and cover a space of 14,500 (1,347 square meters) square feet. They have downward-growing stems due to their epiphytic nature and they tend to give rise to adventitious roots.

The trunks, branches and stem of this tree tend to be gigantic and can spread great distances, hence, people are cautioned to plant it at least a thousand square meters away from establishments.

The tree breeds its own pollinators, that is, the wasps that grow in the figs and pollinate the tree. The seeds, once they fall on the soil has high chances of dying but they all germinate once they fall on some other plant. These tiny wasps are the only pollinators of the plant.

The reason banyan trees are not called parasitic but epiphytic is because, they only take structural support from the tree they grow up on, that is, the phorophyte. But once they’re big enough, they take over the plant and establish its own extensive roots and trunks. That’s why, they are quite famous as “Strangler figs.”

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, Banyan tree is very invasive both above and below ground and can safely grow and not harm establishments around it only when it is planted approximately two thousand square meters away from any foundation. Both their roots and prop roots are strong and extensive.