Training Fig Trees To Make Bridges

 | Grace Higgins

In India, there is a rather incredible natural phenomenon that inhabitants of the area have learned to control: the ability to grow bridges. That is right, locals have learned how they can position and grow fig tree roots in such a way that they will create a natural suspension bridge from point A to point B. It is a true natural construction technique that really showcases the beauty of nature. And also it destroys nothing as a traditional bridge or building would.

Mostly seen by the villagers in Meghalaya who grow their own living bridges by using the roots of the Ficus elastica tree which is commonly known as the rubber fig tree. Residents have seen to weave huge and elaborate tree bridges spanning over 100 feet. Some of these natural bridges are thought by scientists and historians to be over 500 years old.

Of course, the trouble is the bridge cannot be made instantly, it takes at least 15 years for a fig tree bridge to be grown into place. So many advise that these beautiful natural structures are also an important lesson for the virtue of patience. However, slow and steady always wins the race: with age, the tree bridges strengthen have been known to withhold the weight of over 50 people at a time.

One of the reasons these bridges are possible is due to the record rainfall in the area, which allows the fig trees to continuously grow at steady rates. The thin roots are then placed to grow in the direction of the trunk and not span out, this creates the strong and impregnable structure needed to build a bridge. Generally, rocks will be placed along the edges to improve the footpath.

The bridges have been used daily by the local villages and make up an important part of their history and culture. They are thought to be the only bridges of their kind.