Fig trees (Ficus) have more than 850 species and are very diverse – smaller plants, shrubs and also trees, which grow in tropics all around the world. Several kinds of fig trees belong to largest trees in the world, such as the Millenium Tree in Maria Aurora (Philippines) which has a trunk circumference of some 32 – 45 m.
One of most common fig trees is Chinese banyan (Ficus macrocarpa L.f.) which grows in South-Eastern Asia, China, Australia and many islands in Oceania.
Chinese banyan for most part grows as banyan – with many trunks scattered over large area. Nevertheless it happens that Chinese banyan has its own central trunk and such trees can be extremely large.
Banyans of Tanna
Some of the largest Chinese banyans (locally called nepuk) grow on Tanna – gorgeous island in Vanuatu. Sometimes there is mentioned that these trees belong to Ficus prolixa species.
This island has preserved its own traditional way of life, which elsewhere in Oceania is remembered just in the books and tales from the 19th century. Here still are revered ancient rites, locals believe that spirits of deceased still travel their mysterious ways, and, of course, the giant banyan trees still serve as the centres of traditional villages.
In the central part of Tanna have been preserved more traditional villages where local people live as if there is no modern age – so called kastom villages.
Banyans here sustain many kinds of life – many types of insects are associated with them, in the trees live numerous birds and here grow many kinds of other plants, lichens, fungi. But according to local beliefs there are also other kinds of beings – there are tales about diverse spirits living in the trees.
Some of Tanna banyans belong to the largest trees in the world. Thus, locals believe that Kaluas banyan some 6 km to the south from Lomteuheakal is the largest tree in the world. Kaluas is an amazing banyan with many trunks and it is even hard to understand where is the main trunk. Circumference of this aggregation of trunks is 170 m.
Some giant banyan trees are used for ritual purposes, with small houses built in them, e.g. in Yakel village boys after the circumcision live in a house built on the top of a giant banyan tree. At the foot of this giant people gather in evenings, drink kava and dance. Such place is called nakamal or yimwayim.
Lomteuheakal is not exactly the most traditional village as it is located at a road which crosses the island and is popular tourist route. But this place most certainly has traditional flavour. The centrepiece of this village is giant banyan at the road. Next to the banyan is marketplace (former nakamal?) where locals are trading fruits and vegetables. Tree seems to be a popular gathering place.
Banyan in Lomteuheakal has a single central trunk which looks very impressive. Wondermondo has not found information about the circumference of this tree but there are multiple images with people standing next to the tree. Thus it is easy to compare the height of people with the diameter of the tree: diameter of tree is at least 8 m but most likely a bit more. Thus we can assume that its circumference is 26 m or more.
These are very approximate assumptions – but this is sufficient information to conclude that banyan in Lomteuheakal has one of the thickest tree trunks in the world.
Some images of Banyan in Lomteuheakal
- Image by Bronwen Lee, taken in October 2013, Flickr
- Image by meyerak with many happy villagers, taken in November 2006, Flickr
- Image by whitwirth images, taken in December 2012, Flickr
- Image by Helena Jinx, taken in March 2010, Flickr
- Image by Dave and Ruth Clayton, taken in June 2008, Flickr
Banyan in Lomteuheakal is included in the following list:
- Joël Bonnemaison. The Tree and the Canoe: History and Ethnogeography of Tanna. 1994.
|Coordinates:||19.4998 S 169.3133 E|
|Address:||Australia and Oceania, Vanuatu, Tafea, central part of Tanna island, at the marketplace in Lomteuheakal village|
|Alternate names:||Lomteuhekel banyan|
|Species:||Chinese banyan (Ficus microcarpa L.f.)|
|Circumference:||˜ 26 m|
|Diameter:||more than 8 m|
Vanuatu is beautiful and impressive country. People of Vanuatu should be praised for the preservation of the natural landscape and their traditions thus showing that there is a noble alternative to Western civilization.
Category includes some of the most impressive and interesting separate trees of the the world. Total number of tree species in the world still is a wild guess – may be 10,000 and may be 100,000 but most likely somewhere in between. Every month there are reported new tree species from the whole world, including the Western Europe.
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