Holy Bohdi Tree Outdoors in the Bay Area

Vietnamese Temple in E Palo Alto
Hiding behind the big IKEA and Home Depot shopping mall near University Avenue exit on highway 101 is this cute little Vietnamese buddhist temple. I visited there several years ago since its architecture has a lot of Chinese design element. About a month ago, I made another trip to see their water lotus in huge tubs, which I did not photograph last time. My disappointment of not seeing any water lotus on display quickly dissipated when I found this healthy Bohdi tree on their ground.
Bohdi Tree
Bohdi tree is also called Bo tree or Pipul tree with a scientific name Ficus religiosa. Over 2500 years ago, one Hindu prince named Guatama sat and meditated underneath such a tree in the foothills of Himalayas. When he rose up again he claimed to have found the cures to all the pain and suffering in the world. One of the most influential religions, Buddhism, was born. Ever since then, Bohdi tree became the most revered tree for all Buddhists.

Now I am not a Buddhist but I really appreciate the unique leaves on Bohdi tree. It is deep glossy green on the top, heart shaped with an elegant long drip tip. Here is a painting by a famous Chinese artist Qi Baishi (齐白石), showing intricate insects around expressive bohdi leaves and branches.

Unfortunately for us in the Bay Area, Bohdi tree is supposed to be not hardy according to Sunset Garden Book. Painting by Qi BaishiUp till my visit to that little temple in East Palo Alto, I have only seen potted plants in a few shops around the Bay Area. For mature ones, one has to go to Los Angeles or San Diego. So imagine my shock to see this beautiful specimen right in my own neighborhood. It obviously survived the bad freeze we had in early 2007, and may have lived through the legendary 1990 freeze, which I suspect killed everything above ground and caused the tree to regrow into its current multi-trunk form. It now sports a big bundle of over 20 stems, each over 4″ in diameter. One may call it a living proof of the phrase “That which does not kill you, makes you stronger”. Seeing this tree has given me inspiration that my little potted Bohdi seedling may someday find a perfect spot and grow big. As someone on a plant forum once said: “If global warming means that I can grow coconut, then I am all for it.”Bohdi Tree Trunks

2 thoughts on “Holy Bohdi Tree Outdoors in the Bay Area

  1. Those long tips are quite distinctive. Are they edible? I ask because there’s a Thai restaurant near here (Singapore) that serves a roasted-coconut/peanut/lime/chili salad; you spoon the salad onto leaves that look sort of like this, roll them up like spring rolls, and eat them.

    I bet Bodhi trees are plenty hardy in Thailand – or even Singapore, maybe. Or maybe some other ficus with edible leaves?

    BTW, thanks for clearing up for me what that little temple is. I’ve seen it from the Ikea cafe, but not had the time, inclination or expertise to investigate.

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