Pipal, Peepul, or Bo Tree, a tree sacred to Buddhism. While meditating under a pipal, Prince Siddhartha Gautama (563?–483? B.C.) became bodhi—the Buddha ("Enlightened One"). In memory of the event, pipals are worshiped in Buddhist shrines. One such tree in Sri Lanka is believed to be more than 2,000 years old.
The pipal is closely related to the fig. It produces a dark purple, figlike fruit, one-half inch (1.3 cm) in diameter. The pipal begins life as an epiphyte, or air plant—a plant that grows on another plant for support while getting its nutrients from the air and rain. Eventually the pipal sends its own roots into the ground, and may grow 100 feet (30 m) tall. The heart-shaped leaves, about five inches (13 cm) long, have tendrillike tips. The pipal is an important host of the lac insect (the source of shellac). In Florida and California it is grown as a shade tree because of its dense, spreading crown.
The pipal is Ficus religiosa of the mulberry family, Moraceae.