This is the Sacred Fig (Ficus religiosa) I helped the Rotary Club of Saipan plant this past Earth Day. This species of Ficus tree is one of my favorite trees. It grows all over Southeast Asia and India, planted by buddhists who believe Buddha received enlightenment under a similar tree.
I've wanted to plant one of these on Saipan for quite some time. The only other specimens I know of in the CNMI grow at the Botanical Gardens in Papago and near the Seabees Monument on Tinian.
I found this tree "growing" at the Division of Parks & Recreation back in April when we did the Earth Day planting. It was obviously a cutting, probably from the tree at the Botanical Gardens. It wasn't very healthy and only had about 10 leaves on it.
I asked Tony Benavente, the Director of Parks & Rec, if I could have it and he said, "No problem." We planted it on Earth Day and about two weeks later it died. Or so I thought.
All the leaves died and I was able to break the stem off at the roots with the push of a finger, but the roots were still healthy and pretty soon small shoots started coming up from the base of the stem.
Six months later those shoots are 10 feet tall.
I've really taken care of this tree. When I first planted it I spent about $20 on wood chips to keep the base free of grass and thus safe from the bushcutter. I also visited it every day after going to the gym to water it. In July I spent another $20 on wood chips and by then we were getting plenty of rain, so there was no need for me to water it.
This is probably my favorite of the 3000 or so trees I've planted on Saipan in the last four years. I can't wait for it to get even bigger. I bet that when Earth Day rolls around in another 6 months it will be 20 feet high.
We actually planted three trees this past Earth Day. In addition to the Sacred Fig we planted two da'ok trees. One is dead and the other has serious bushcutter damage and probably won't survive.
The amount of damage bushcutters have done to the trees we've planted over the years continues to frustrate.