Living Bridges Grown From Trees
These living bridges are created by the people of Nongriat in Meghalaya, India. Some are one hundred feet in length, and support up to fifty people at a time; others are double-decker bridges!
(Living bridge from ficus elastica)
The locals’ answer lie in the sloping hills hugging the contour of the water channels, where a species of rubber tree flourishes. From the upper trunk of the ficus elastica, secondary roots grow outwards with great profuseness. The tribes people realized half a millenia ago that they could use these roots to forge a pass across the water below, using hollowed out betel nut trunks to guide the direction of the roots’ growth.
Once the roots make their way across the water to the opposite bank, they take hold. Here, they continue to grow and strengthen, not only stabilizing the bridge platform, but also reinforcing the bank walls. The full cycle of bridge-growing may take ten to fifteen years to complete, necessitating the locals’ aboricultural knowledge to be passed on from older to younger generations, who will, perhaps, personally continue the former’s work.
(Living tree bridge)
Fans of the incomparable sf writer Jack Vance recall the living house trees from his 1954 novel The Houses of Iszm, which were grown from saplings lovingly tended by the Iszic:
The sphincter expanded and Farr stepped dubiously into the chamber…the pod was thirty feet long, opening on a balcony with a waist-high balustrade. The walls and domed ceiling were tufted with trefoils of a silky green fibre; the floor was heavy with plum-coloured moss; quaint lamps grew out of the wall. There were four magenta pod-chairs against one wall. In the middle of the floor stood a tall cylindrical vase containing water, plants and black dancing eels…
Farr lowered himself upon one of the frail magenta bladders. The smooth skin stretched and fitted itself to his body.
(Read more about Vance's house trees)
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