Living Root Bridges

August 10, 2009


I came across these images on another blog and had to pass them on.  I can’t decide if it reminds me more of Ents or of Sleepy Hollow but the idea is stunning nonetheless.  What a beautiful concept.  The only information about them seems to come from an Indian (as in India) resort nearby where they are made/grown and its aim is clearly to promote its own tourism however, that doesn’t necessarily make it suspect.  Here’s what they say about the process.

“The lower reaches of the southern slopes of Khasi and Jaintia hills are humid and warm and are streaked by many swift flowing rivers and mountain streams. A species of Indian Rubber tree – botanical name: Ficus elastica – thrives and flourishes alongside these streams and rivers. This tree can comfortably perch itself on huge boulders along side the riverbanks or in the middle of rivers and send its roots down to the riverbed. Thus, they have adapted themselves very well to high soil erosion caused by these fast flowing rivers and streams that come down about 3000 feet along precipitous slopes. These trees shoot out many secondary roots from their trunks.

“The early war-Khasis, had noticed these qualities of this tree and had adapted it to serve their need for bridges to cross rivers and streams. In order to direct the roots in the desired direction, betel nut tree trunks, sliced half in the middle for their entire length, are hollowed out and are positioned according to the requirement of the bridge. The thin and long tender roots are then passed through these hollowed out betel nut tree trunks. The roots start growing towards the directed end. When they reach the other end of the stream or river, they are allowed to take root in the soil. These bridges usually have base spans numbering more than two. There are also two protective railing spans. Stones are used to fill any gaps in the base spans and over time they get embedded in the floor of the root bridge. Some of these bridges have roots brought down from the tree branches joining the middle of the bridge as support spans. Some of these root bridges are made by entwining the roots of two trees planted on opposite banks or in the middle of the river on huge boulders.”

Here’s the blog where I found it (interesting for other reasons too) and another couple of blogs of unknown provenance here and here.  Here’s a link to the resort website.

root bridge 2


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