"See, this whole swamp is actually one tree spread out over miles. Branches spread and sink and take root and then spread some more. One big, living organism. Just like the entire world."
The ancient banyan-grove tree is a single, enormous tree that stands in the middle of the Foggy Swamp with a root system stretching for many miles. Over time, the tree's roots have spread across the entirety of the swamp and created shoots which have propagated an entire forest of new trees. The banyan-grove tree and the swamp are protected by Huu, a waterbender who claimed to have reached enlightenment beneath its branches.
After a tornado spontaneously formed and caused Appa to crash into the swamp, Aang, Sokka, and Katara were separated from their animal companions. At night, Team Avatar's search for Appa and Momo was disrupted by moving vines, causing them to be separated from each other as well. Wandering through the mysterious swamp, they each started to hallucinate. Following their hallucinations, they all reunited at the heart of the swamp, directly by the main canopy of the banyan-grove tree and its trunk.
When Sokka's logical viewpoint caused him to contradict Aang's statement that it was the tree that had called them to the center, they were then attacked by moving vines in the guise of a giant humanoid shape with a mask at the center. After defeating this monster, it turned out that the vines were controlled by a waterbender named Huu. When Huu learned that Aang was the Avatar, he invited the kids to follow him to the base of the banyan-grove tree. During their walk, Huu explained that the swamp was a sacred, mystical place and that he had reached enlightenment right under the banyan-grove tree. He told Team Avatar that the swamp was actually just one large tree that had spread out over miles, sank, and took root, a process that repeated for an extended period of time. He used the tree as an example to teach them that the world, just like the swamp, was one living organism where everything was connected.
Using this newly acquired knowledge, Aang used the connection of the tree with the swamp around it to find Appa and Momo. The young airbender placed his hand on the tree's root and focused; his tattoos glowed and a bolt of energy traveled through the root system, allowing Aang to metaphysically connect with his surroundings and locate Appa in the swamp.
Banyan trees are a variety of thick-canopied fig trees which grow in tropical regions across the world. While some species grow independently, others require a host tree on which to initially grow, for which they the have acquired the byname, "strangler-vine". Older trees drop shoots down from the branches toward the ground, where they take hold and propagate new woody trunks, connected to the original tree; in this way, some species are able to grow across several hectares. In many traditional societies, the banyan tree is used as a meeting spot or a marker for the center of a village, and in parts of Southern Asia, is considered sacred, especially in such Hindu influenced areas as India where Banyan is the national tree as well as Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Bali. The Bodhi Tree, the banyan species, Ficus religiosa, is where Buddha is said to have achieved his enlightenment.
- This tree is similar to the Bhodhi Tree or ficus religiosa, where Buddha gained his enlightenment.