Ficus religiosa

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Related Links
Habit at MCC Kahului, Maui, Hawaii
© Forest and Kim Starr
Habit at MCC Kahului, Maui, Hawaii
© Forest and Kim Starr
Leaf and fruit at MCC Kahului, Maui, Hawaii
© Forest and Kim Starr
Leaf at MCC Kahului, Maui, Hawaii
© Forest and Kim Starr

Local names:
Bengali (asvattha), English (wisdom tree,sacred ficus,peepal,bodhi tree), Hindi (pipal), Malay (avasai,arasu), Spanish (higuillo,álamo), Tamil (drasi,avasi)

Ficus religiosa is an evergreen or deciduous tree, 20 m tall and 1.5-2 m dbh, irregularly-shaped, with wide-spreading branches and without aerial roots from the branches. The trunk is regularly shaped, often with low buttresses. Bark is grey with brownish specks, smooth, exfoliating in irregular rounded flakes.

Leaves alternate, spirally arranged and broadly ovate, glossy, coriaceous (leathery), dark green leaves, 10-18 by 7.5-10 cm, with unusual tail-like tips, pink when young, stipulate, base-cordate. Petioles is slender and 7.5-10 cm long. Galls on leaves.

Flowers axillary sessile, unisexual.

Figs in pairs, rounded, flat-topped green, to 1.5 cm across, axillary, sessile, smooth, ripening to purple with red dots, basal bracts 3 and broad.

The specific epithet ‘religiosa’ alludes to the religious significance attached to this tree. The prince Siddhartha is said to have sat and meditated under this tree and there found enlightment from which time he became a Buddha. The tree is therefore sacred to Buddhists and is planted beside temples


It is found scattered in forests, where it propagates as an epiphyte on other trees especially widely found in uplands and plane area.

Native range
Chad, India, Nepal, Thailand

Tree management

When managed under vigorous lopping and pollarding, a large crop of fodder is obtained, while controlling excessive crop competition. Protection from livestock browsing and fire is necessary when the trees are young.

Ripe fruits are collected, rubbed and washed to get clean seed, which are then sun-dried before storage in airtight containers. Dry figs (fruit) weigh 460 per kg.

It is found scattered in forests, where it propagates as an epiphyte on other trees especially widely found in uplands and plane area.

In places where the pollinator wasps are rare, fruit production is low. Propagation by cuttings is usually employed instead of wildlings and seeds. Cuttings 2 m in length and not less than 5 cm in diameter are inserted in the soil to about 0.5 m deep. Compost is added and watering is done and the plants are ready for planting in 6 months.

 Figs are consumed as famine food during periods of food

Fodder: Its leaves are lopped as fodder for elephants, camels, goats and cattle; having about 10-14% crude protein. Silage prepared from the tree is palatable and digestible.

It is used as firewood.

Timber: Its wood is greyish-white, moderately hard, and heavy, weighing 480-640 kg/m3. It is moderately durable under cover and quite durable under water. It is little used but is occasionally converted into packing cases, cheap boarding, yokes, spoons and bowls.

Tannin or dyestuff: Its bark is used in tanning.

Medicine: The ripe fruit is cooling and relieves foul taste, thirst, biliousness, diseases of blood and heart; it is a laxative and helps digestion. It is used for medicinal purposes, such as toothaches. Dried fruit cure asthma; seeds are useful in urinary discharge; young bark is an astringent.

Ornamental: This tree is occasionally planted for amenity purposes, especially in landscaping due to its aesthetic shape and form.

Intercropping: Its large size, wide crown and spreading branches limits it’s agroforestry potential for intercropping  with crops , or  as a hedgerow planting.

Latex or rubber:  Bird-lime can be prepared from its milky juice. 

Other services: The species is mostly planted near Buddhist temples as it is referred to as sacred in India. Hindus associate the tree with fertility in women. It is also an important host to lac insects.