Ficus religiosa (PROSEA)

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Plant Resources of South-East Asia
Introduction
List of species


Ficus religiosa L.


Protologue: Sp. pl. 2: 1059 (1753).

Synonyms

Ficus caudata Stokes (1812), Ficus superstitiosa Link (1822), Ficus peepul Griffith (1854).

Vernacular names

  • Bo tree, bodhi tree, pipal tree (En)
  • Indonesia: bodhi
  • Cambodia: dom pur
  • Laos: pho
  • Thailand: pho see ma haa pho (central), yong (Shan-Mae Hong Son), salee (northern)
  • Vietnam: cây bồ dề, cây da, cây da bồ dề.

Distribution

Originally from the Himalayas to southern China (Yunnan), Vietnam and northern Thailand; nowadays widely cultivated in the Malesian region but also in e.g. the Middle East, northern Africa and the United States.

Uses

A decoction of the bark is used as skin wash to treat scabies, whereas the aerial roots are chewed by women to promote fertility. In India, an infusion of the bark is drunk as an antidiabetic and used externally against ulcers and skin diseases. The leaves and twigs are reputedly used against bites of venomous animals, as an astringent, antigonorrhoeal, laxative, aphrodisiac, and for the treatment of haemoptysis and fistula. Fresh sap from the leaves is used to cure diarrhoea, cholera and for wound healing. In Vietnam, the aerial roots are considered to be diuretic and used in ascites. The leaves and twigs are also applied as fodder. The fibrous bark is used to make paper. The fruits and tender leaf buds are edible though not tasty, and are considered to be cooling, alterative and laxative. The latex can be applied as birdlime. The tree is a host of the lac insect. The low-quality wood may be used for packing cases and matches. The bark contains tannin which may be used to tan leather and for dying cloth. The tree is sacred to Hindus and Buddhists, and the trees which were brought to Sri Lanka in 245 B.C. are the oldest known trees in the world. It is regularly planted as a roadside tree.

Observations

An evergreen or deciduous banyan or small to medium-sized tree up to 20 m tall, bark surface fissured, grey; leaves arranged spirally, ovate-cordate to ovate, 6-26 cm × 4-16 cm, base subcordate to truncate, apex caudate, margin often uneven or sinuous, with 6-9 pairs of lateral veins, glabrous, stipules up to 1.5 cm long; figs axillary, paired, sessile, subglobose, 10-15 mm in diameter, glabrous, ripening pink, purple or black; flowers with free tepals, male flowers in 1 row, sessile, with 2-3 tepals, female flowers sessile or stipitate, with 3-4(-5) tepals. F. religiosa occurs naturally in submontane forest.

Selected sources

54, 125, 202, 281, 284, 287, 478, 800, 900, 921, 1035, 1115, 1152, 1191, 1289, 1319, 1350, 1478, 1525.

Authors

J.P. Rojo, F.C. Pitargue & M.S.M. Sosef