Planted all over Chandigarh, Ficus Infectoria or Pilkhan is a fast-growing tree that casts a wide net of shade, providing cool relief in hot summer months. If you don’t pay close attention, you are bound to miss this White Fig tree of the Mulberry (Moraceae) family and botanical name Ficus Virens.
We spotted fairly young ones in a line outside the Sector 8 community centre and dispensary. Its heart-shaped green leaves look perfect, but it’s the white coloured, pea-sized figs/fruits punctuating its leafy branches that stand out with distinction. Soon, they will turn their colour into purple, red and bronze in March, and this transformation goes on till April. As it changes foliage in spring, the multiple shades and tints simply look spectacular.
Common in northern India, Pilkhan is a widely spreading deciduous tree and has a greenish gray smooth bark. It is, of course, an ornamental avenue tree, and finds prominence in the roadside planning of tree plantation for the city. Unlike the Banyan tree, Pilkhan’s aerial roots don’t dangle, but wrap themselves around the top of the trunk.
According to a report published in The Indian Express in 2012, 14 fully grown trees were transplanted at the Indian Institute of Scientific Education and Research in Mohali in a unique horticultural experiment. Among the Peepal, Mulberry and Keekar trees, there were three Pilkhan trees, too, and some of these 14 trees had roots running as deep as 25 feet. Last we heard, they were doing well.