We are so very fortunate to be renting a house that has an awesome feature that comes with it; this banyan tree:
Banyan trees are technically not a "tree". They are a strangler fig that originates in a tree or building structure, eventually overtaking it's host, and any other thing in it's path if it isn't pruned preventively. The branches spread outward, and their hanging vines grow into the ground and thicken to form multiple supportive trunks. They have a very "sci-fi" look to them. Although they do grow in Florida, they are not particularly common, especially in residential areas. It is not unusual for us to glance out our window and see a vehicle stopped in the middle of the road while it's gawking passengers snap pictures of it on their i-phones, or to see a group of people gathered on our sidewalk, gaping up at it. Usually these are neighbors with a group of white and pasty out-of-town houseguests in tow. Our house attracts a kind of "botanical paparazzi". Not that it's gone to our heads or anything.
As you can see in the picture above and the one below, the tree has a fantastic multi-level play area in it's cradle. We put all the kids (including John) up there later in the evening after our zoo trip.
As you can see by their faces, they hadn't quite recovered from the zoo by that time.
Some of the hanging vines are great for playing Tarzan too.
Our landlords inform us that this particular tree actually is a sprout from a rather famous banyan tree located in Fort Myers, FL. Covering almost a full acre, it is the largest banyan in the continental United States, and it was planted by Thomas Edison in 1925. It is one of the main attractions at the winter estates of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford. Click on the link below if you want to see a tour of that tree, it's pretty cool.
Tour of the Edison Banyan Tree
I don't know how much longer we will live here, but the tree will definitely be a hard thing to leave behind when the time comes.