Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide


Ficus benghalensis



Ficus benghalensis (banyan)


  • Last modified
  • 19 November 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Host Plant
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Ficus benghalensis
  • Preferred Common Name
  • banyan
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Dicotyledonae
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • F. benghalensis is a large, fast growing, evergreen tree that has been widely introduced across tropical and subtropical areas of the world. It has escaped from cultivation and become naturalized in natural and...

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Ficus benghalensis (banyan); habit, showing aerial roots. Cable Company buildings, Sand Island, Midway Atoll, Hawaii, USA. June 2008.
CaptionFicus benghalensis (banyan); habit, showing aerial roots. Cable Company buildings, Sand Island, Midway Atoll, Hawaii, USA. June 2008.
Copyright©Forest Starr & Kim Starr - CC BY 4.0
Ficus benghalensis (banyan); habit, showing aerial roots. Cable Company buildings, Sand Island, Midway Atoll, Hawaii, USA. June 2008.
HabitFicus benghalensis (banyan); habit, showing aerial roots. Cable Company buildings, Sand Island, Midway Atoll, Hawaii, USA. June 2008.©Forest Starr & Kim Starr - CC BY 4.0
Ficus benghalensis (banyan); habit of mature tree.
CaptionFicus benghalensis (banyan); habit of mature tree.
Copyright©K.M. Siddiqui
Ficus benghalensis (banyan); habit of mature tree.
HabitFicus benghalensis (banyan); habit of mature tree.©K.M. Siddiqui
Ficus benghalensis (banyan); branches and aerial roots.
TitleBranches and aerial roots
CaptionFicus benghalensis (banyan); branches and aerial roots.
Copyright©K.M. Siddiqui
Ficus benghalensis (banyan); branches and aerial roots.
Branches and aerial rootsFicus benghalensis (banyan); branches and aerial roots.©K.M. Siddiqui
Ficus benghalensis (banyan); leaves and fruit.
TitleLeaves and fruit
CaptionFicus benghalensis (banyan); leaves and fruit.
Copyright©K.M. Siddiqui
Ficus benghalensis (banyan); leaves and fruit.
Leaves and fruitFicus benghalensis (banyan); leaves and fruit.©K.M. Siddiqui


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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Ficus benghalensis L.

Preferred Common Name

  • banyan


  • Ficus benghalensis var. benghalensis
  • Ficus benghalensis var. krishnae (C. DC.) Corner

Other Scientific Names

  • Ficus banyana Oken
  • Ficus chauvieri G.Nicholson
  • Ficus cotoneifolia Vahl
  • Ficus cotonifolia Stokes
  • Ficus indica L.
  • Ficus karet Baill.
  • Ficus krishnae C.DC.
  • Ficus lancifolia Moench
  • Ficus lasiophylla Link
  • Ficus procera Salisb.
  • Ficus pubescens B.Heyne ex Roth
  • Ficus umbrosa Salisb.
  • Urostigma benghalense (L.) Gasp.

International Common Names

  • English: banyan fig; banyan tree; east Indian fig; Indian banyan
  • Spanish: higuera
  • French: figuier banyan; figuier d'Inde
  • Portuguese: figueira-banyan; figueira-bargá

Local Common Names

  • Bahamas: banyan tree
  • Germany: Banyanbaum, Indischer; Feigenbaum, Würg-
  • India: al; alam; bahupada; bar; baraged; barh; bat; bot; mawi; peepal; vad
  • Indonesia: beringin
  • Malaysia: ara tandok; bohdi
  • Myanmar: pyi-nyaung
  • Pakistan: bar; barged; barh; peepal
  • Thailand: krang; ni khrot

EPPO code

  • FIUBG (Ficus benghalensis)

Summary of Invasiveness

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F. benghalensis is a large, fast growing, evergreen tree that has been widely introduced across tropical and subtropical areas of the world. It has escaped from cultivation and become naturalized in natural and disturbed areas (Rojo et al., 1999; Starr et al., 2003). F. benghalensis produces large numbers of seeds which can be dispersed by both native and exotic birds. F. benghalensis trees begin growing on other trees as epiphytes and they eventually mature, completely killing the host-tree (Starr et al., 2003). To date, F. benghalensis is listed as invasive in the Bahamas, Australia, Singapore, Western Samoa, and the Chagos Islands (Whistler, 1996; Chong et al., 2009; Smith, 2010; PIER, 2014). 

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Plantae
  •         Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •             Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •                 Class: Dicotyledonae
  •                     Order: Urticales
  •                         Family: Moraceae
  •                             Genus: Ficus
  •                                 Species: Ficus benghalensis

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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The Moraceae are monoecious or dioecious trees, shrubs, climbers, stranglers, and rarely herbs comprising about 39 genera and 1125 species distributed mostly in tropical to warm temperate regions (Stevens, 2012; Flora of China Editorial Committee, 2014). Nearly all species within this family contain milky latex and have alternate or opposite leaves and small, unisexual, and minute flowers (Wilmott-Dear and Brummitt, 2007). The genus Ficus includes about 750 species of trees, shrubs, climbers, and hemiepiphytic stranglers with Pantropical distribution (Wagner et al., 1999; Stevens, 2012). These species are recognized by a specialized inflorescence and pollination syndrome (Weiblen, 2000).

The common name banyan comes from India, where early travellers observed that the shade of the tree was frequented by banias or Indian traders. 


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F. benghalensis is a large, evergreen to deciduous tree, up to 20 (-25) m tall, with wide leafy crown and branches spreading up to 100 m or more with pillar-like prop roots and accessory trunks. Trunk massive, fluted, bark grey, smooth, young softly white puberulous. Leaves with stout, (1.5-) 2-6 (-8) cm long, ventrally compressed hairy petiole; lamina coriaceous, ovate or obovate to elliptic, (8-) 10-20 (-25) cm long, (6-) 8-15 (20) cm broad, glabrous above, finely pubescent beneath, base subcordate or rounded, margins apically obtuse, lateral nerves 4-7 pairs, intercostals distinct, ± bulging stipules coriaceous, stout, 1.5-2.5 cm long, acute; cystoliths abundant on side, few or absent below. Hypanthodia sessile, in axillary pairs on young depressed-globose, 15-2 cm in diameter, green, hairy, subtended by 3, reniform c. 3-4 mm long, c. 6-7 mm wide, minutely hairy basal bracts, apical orifice by 3, flat or ± umbonate bracts, internal bristles absent. Male flowers: numerous ostiolar, shortly pedicellate; sepals 2-3; stamen solitary, with shortly mucronate anther. Female flowers: sessile, mixed with gall flowers; sepals 34, small; ovary with an elongated style. Gall flowers numerous, pedicellate; sepal as in female ovary with a short style. Figs globose to depressed-globose, 15-2.5 cm in diameter pinkish-red, hairy (Flora of Pakistan, 2014). 

Plant Type

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Seed propagated


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F. benghalensis is considered native to tropical Asia, from India through Myanmar, Thailand, southern China, and Malaysia. It is also cultivated and naturalized in many tropical regions of the world including western Africa, North America, the West Indies, Australia, the Middle East, and many islands in the Pacific ocean (see distribution table for details; Rojo et al., 1999; PIER, 2014; PROTA, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2014). 

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Continent/Country/RegionDistributionLast ReportedOriginFirst ReportedInvasivePlantedReferenceNotes


AfghanistanPresentPlanted, Natural
BangladeshPresentPlanted, Natural
Chagos ArchipelagoPresentIntroduced Invasive Whistler, 1996
IndiaPresentPlanted, NaturalUSDA-ARS, 2014
-HaryanaPresentPlanted, Natural
-Himachal PradeshPresentPlanted, Natural
-Jammu and KashmirPresentPlanted, Natural
-KarnatakaPresentPlanted, Natural
-KeralaPresentPlanted, Natural
-RajasthanPresentPlanted, Natural
-Tamil NaduPresentPlanted, Natural
-Uttar PradeshPresentPlanted, Natural
-West BengalPresentPlanted, Natural
IndonesiaPresentNativeRojo et al., 1999
IsraelPresentIntroducedDAISIE, 2014
MalaysiaPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-Peninsular MalaysiaPresentNativeRojo et al., 1999
MaldivesPresentIntroducedPIER, 2014
MyanmarPresentNativeRojo et al., 1999
NepalPresentPlanted, Natural
PakistanPresentPlanted, NaturalUSDA-ARS, 2014
QatarPresentIntroducedFlora of Qatar, 2014Cultivated
SingaporePresentIntroduced Invasive Chong et al., 2009
ThailandPresentNativeRojo et al., 1999
VietnamPresentNativeRojo et al., 1999


Central African RepublicPresentIntroducedPROTA, 2014Cultivated
EgyptPresentIntroducedPROTA, 2014Cultivated
KenyaPresentIntroducedPROTA, 2014Cultivated
MoroccoPresentIntroducedPROTA, 2014Cultivated
SeychellesPresentIntroducedPIER, 2014
TanzaniaPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-ZanzibarPresent Planted
UgandaPresent Planted

North America

USAPresent Planted
-FloridaPresentIntroduced Planted USDA-NRCS, 2014
-HawaiiPresentIntroducedImada et al., 2013Cultivated

Central America and Caribbean

BahamasPresentIntroduced Invasive Smith, 2010
JamaicaPresentIntroducedAdams, 1972


American SamoaPresentIntroducedSpace and Flynn, 2002
AustraliaPresentIntroduced Invasive Australian Biological Resources Study, 2013
-QueenslandPresentIntroduced Invasive Australian Biological Resources Study, 2013
FijiPresentIntroducedSmith, 1981Cultivated
French PolynesiaPresentIntroducedFlorence et al., 2013Cultivated
KiribatiPresentIntroducedFosberg et al., 1979Cultivated
NauruPresentIntroducedThaman et al., 1994Cultivated
Northern Mariana IslandsPresentIntroducedFosberg et al., 1979
Papua New GuineaPresentPIER, 2014
SamoaPresentIntroduced Invasive Space and Flynn, 2002
US Minor Outlying IslandsPresentIntroducedStarr et al., 2008

History of Introduction and Spread

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F. benghalensis has been widely introduced and cultivated in the tropics (Rojo et al., 1999; Starr et al., 2003). In Florida, seedlings were first observed in Miami in 1986 (Stange and Knight 1987). For Australia, the oldest herbarium collection was dated in 1899 (Atlas of Living Australia, 2014). 

Risk of Introduction

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The risk of introduction of F. benghalensis is moderate. Ficus species have one of the most complex pollination systems in which each Ficus species needs a specific wasp species in order to pollinate its flowers, set fruits, and spread into new habitats. Therefore, this complex pollination system minimizes the chance for this species to spread out following deliberate introduction (Starr et al., 2003). 


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F. benghalensis grows from low altitudes to 600 metres principally in monsoon and rain forests. However, it is drought resistant and withstands mild frost (Oudhia 2004). In the Bahamas it is cultivated but occasionally escapes to coppiced forest areas (Smith, 2010). In Australia, it can be found in mixed eucalypt woodland with monsoon scrub species (Chew, 1989). 

Habitat List

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Terrestrial – ManagedDisturbed areas Present, no further details Natural
Disturbed areas Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Rail / roadsides Present, no further details Natural
Rail / roadsides Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Urban / peri-urban areas Present, no further details Natural
Urban / peri-urban areas Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Terrestrial ‑ Natural / Semi-naturalNatural grasslands Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Natural grasslands Present, no further details Natural
Coastal areas Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Coastal areas Present, no further details Natural

Biology and Ecology

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The chromosome number reported for F. benghalensis is 2n = 26 (Ohri and Khoshoo, 1987).

Reproductive Biology

The pollination system occurring in Ficus species is one of the most complex within flowering plants. In this system, each fig tree species is obligatorily pollinated by one fig wasp species, and each wasp species can only reproduce in one fig species (Ramirez, 1974; Rasplus, 1996).


F. benghalensis is a woody tree with long life span (i.e., >100yrs) that can attain large dimensions (perimeters >800 metres; Munshi et al., 2004).

Environmental Requirements

F. benghalensis grows best in wet habitats on well-draining sandy loam soils, but it is drought-resistant (Starr et al., 2003). 


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Af - Tropical rainforest climate Preferred > 60mm precipitation per month
Am - Tropical monsoon climate Preferred Tropical monsoon climate ( < 60mm precipitation driest month but > (100 - [total annual precipitation(mm}/25]))
As - Tropical savanna climate with dry summer Preferred < 60mm precipitation driest month (in summer) and < (100 - [total annual precipitation{mm}/25])
Aw - Tropical wet and dry savanna climate Preferred < 60mm precipitation driest month (in winter) and < (100 - [total annual precipitation{mm}/25])
Cf - Warm temperate climate, wet all year Tolerated Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, wet all year
Cs - Warm temperate climate with dry summer Tolerated Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry summers
Cw - Warm temperate climate with dry winter Tolerated Warm temperate climate with dry winter (Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry winters)

Latitude/Altitude Ranges

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Latitude North (°N)Latitude South (°S)Altitude Lower (m)Altitude Upper (m)
30 10 300 1300

Air Temperature

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Parameter Lower limit Upper limit
Absolute minimum temperature (ºC) 0 8
Mean annual temperature (ºC) 17 25
Mean maximum temperature of hottest month (ºC) 28 36
Mean minimum temperature of coldest month (ºC) 6 13


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ParameterLower limitUpper limitDescription
Dry season duration46number of consecutive months with <40 mm rainfall
Mean annual rainfall5004000mm; lower/upper limits

Rainfall Regime

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Soil Tolerances

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Soil drainage

  • free

Soil reaction

  • acid
  • alkaline
  • neutral

Soil texture

  • heavy
  • light
  • medium

Special soil tolerances

  • saline
  • shallow

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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F. benghalensis spreads by seeds, but it can also be propagated from cuttings or transplanting young trees (Starr et al., 2003; Smith, 2010; PROTA, 2014). Seeds can remain up to two years in open storage at room temperature (PROTA, 2014). 

Pathway Causes

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CauseNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
DisturbanceEscaped from cultivation and often naturalized in disturbed areas Yes Yes Starr et al., 2003
Escape from confinement or garden escapeSeeds dispersed by birds Yes Yes Starr et al., 2003
Intentional releaseWidely cultivated in the tropics and naturalized in almost every wet tropical habitat Yes Yes Starr et al., 2003
Medicinal useBark, seeds and leaves are used in traditional medicine Yes Yes Rojo et al., 1999
Ornamental purposesPlanted in gardens, parks, and sidewalks Yes Yes PROTA, 2014

Pathway Vectors

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VectorNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Debris and waste associated with human activitiesSeeds, stem cuttings, cuttings Yes Yes Smith, 2010

Impact Summary

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Cultural/amenity Positive
Economic/livelihood Positive and negative
Environment (generally) Positive and negative

Environmental Impact

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F. benghalensis is a fast-growing tree with the potential to invade both disturbed and native ecosystems. This species is capable of germinating in native host trees, where it grows as an epiphyte, eventually killing the host-trees. The root system can damage buildings and sidewalks. The tree can also germinate in fence-posts, rocks, bridges, buildings, and other structures, eventually engulfing the hosts (Starr et al., 2003; PIER, 2014; PROTA, 2014). 

Social Impact

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The foliage and milky sap of all Ficus species may be an irritant to skin and eyes (Starr et al., 2003; PROTA, 2014). 

Risk and Impact Factors

Top of page Invasiveness
  • Proved invasive outside its native range
  • Has a broad native range
  • Abundant in its native range
  • Highly adaptable to different environments
  • Is a habitat generalist
  • Tolerates, or benefits from, cultivation, browsing pressure, mutilation, fire etc
  • Pioneering in disturbed areas
  • Highly mobile locally
  • Benefits from human association (i.e. it is a human commensal)
  • Long lived
  • Fast growing
  • Has propagules that can remain viable for more than one year
  • Reproduces asexually
Impact outcomes
  • Damaged ecosystem services
  • Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
  • Host damage
  • Infrastructure damage
  • Modification of successional patterns
  • Reduced native biodiversity
Impact mechanisms
  • Causes allergic responses
  • Competition - monopolizing resources
  • Competition - smothering
  • Competition - strangling
  • Rapid growth
  • Rooting
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately
  • Difficult/costly to control


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F. benghalensis is often planted as an ornamental. The bark, leaves, root-fibres, and milky juice (latex) are used in the preparation of traditional medicines. The tree is also planted for soil conservation, timber and pulp paper. The leaf is used in the preparation of fodder. It is also cultivated as a shade tree along streets, in parks and gardens, and grown as a host plant for lac insects. The fruit is edible, but is eaten only in famine times (Rojo et al., 1999; Oudhia 2004; Smith, 2010; PIER, 2014; PROTA, 2014).

Uses List

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Animal feed, fodder, forage

  • Fodder/animal feed
  • Invertebrate food for lac/wax insects

Drugs, stimulants, social uses

  • Religious


  • Agroforestry
  • Amenity
  • Erosion control or dune stabilization
  • Revegetation


  • Fuelwood


  • Ornamental
  • Sociocultural value

Human food and beverage

  • Fruits


  • Fibre
  • Miscellaneous materials
  • Resins
  • Rubber/latex
  • Wood/timber

Medicinal, pharmaceutical

  • Source of medicine/pharmaceutical
  • Traditional/folklore

Wood Products

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  • Boxes
  • Cases



  • Building poles
  • Posts

Sawn or hewn building timbers

  • Carpentry/joinery (exterior/interior)

Prevention and Control

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Ficus trees appear to be particularly sensitive to triclopyr herbicides as a basal or cut-stump treatment. However, extreme caution is needed when applying herbicide to fig species growing as epiphytes to ensure that the herbicide does not contact the host tree (Starr et al., 2003). 


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Links to Websites

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GISD/IASPMR: Invasive Alien Species Pathway Management Resource and DAISIE European Invasive Alien Species Gateway source for updated system data added to species habitat list.


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30/04/15 Original text by:

Julissa Rojas-Sandoval, Department of Botany-Smithsonian NMNH, Washington DC, USA

Distribution Maps

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