Bo Trees

Bo Tree Life

Although a bo tree can reach a height of 90 feet, it starts out as an epiphyte, growing on another tree and receiving nutrients directly from the air. Since the bo tree can gather its own nutrients, it does not act as a parasite feeding off the tree upon which it grows. It merely relies on the host tree for structural support.

As the bo tree grows, it begins to develop its own roots down toward the soil.

Bo tree leaves photographed at the Conservatory of Flowers, San Francisco, CA, May 2005

The bo tree has beautifully tapered leaves that rustle in the wind. Its fruit is a purple fig.

The tree is native to India and Southeast Asia where people have traditionally used it to treat diarrhea, dysentery, and diabetes. The Conservatory of Flowers in San Francisco recently featured the tree in an exhibit entitled "Nature's Pharmacy."

Bo Tree Symbolism

For Buddhists, the bo tree is a profoundly sacred tree. Under this tree, the seeker Siddhartha received enlightenment and became a Buddha. He left behind his life as a prince and meditated under the bo tree, which translated, means wisdom tree.

Hindu scriptures also mention the bo tree, and the tree is often planted near temples.

When I visited Buddhist temples in Taiwan, I often found dried bo tree leaves for sale. Often a simple, devotional figure, such as the Buddha in a gesture of compassion, was drawn on the leaves.

Now some years later, I have seen it as an "Asian" decorative motif, even on candleholders, but it actually has deeper meaning beyond its elegant shape.