With their distinctive aerial root system they're very unusual looking trees that's for sure...
The trees are a type of ficus called a Banyan. Based on their size these trees may look hundreds of years old, but in actuality those at North Straub Park are probably less than 100 years old. Native to India, a 4 foot tall banyan was imported to Florida in 1925 by auto tire businessman Harvey Firestone as a gift to Thomas Edison at his Fort Myers winter home. Edison, Firestone and Henry Ford were on a quest to find an alternative and less expensive source of natural rubber for use in making tires. Today that same tree has grown to over an acre in diameter!
In the US, banyans are found mostly in South Florida and Hawaii. The trees in St Pete are able to survive this far north because of the "peninsula effect" (the water surrounding Pinellas creates a temperate/sub tropical climate). There are other massive banyans by the Mirror Lake Library and in around the Bahama Shores neighborhood of South St Pete.
Whether it's a unique photo opp, a place to play or simply a bit of cool shade the Banyans of downtown are part of what makes St Pete so unusual.
Rev B has nearly been published multiple times and has received letters of rejection from Highlights, Jet Magazine, Dear Abby and The New Yorker. While accepting full responsibility for all grammatical errors he makes no claims of being an author. Please enjoy the entries found here and use the search function if you're looking for something more specific.