In the forests of north-eastern India, rivers and streams are crossed using structures crafted from ancient banyan trees. Forged by tangled roots and vines, these living tree bridges are both a natural wonder and an engineering masterclass.
Cherrapunji is one of the world’s wettest places, so normal wooden structures would rot and break. Living bridges avoid this problem, enabling these children to get to school. By carefully guiding the strong, thick tree roots across rivers and voids, local Khasi people have grown permanent crossings that only get stronger over time. Patience and planning are required: they take 10 to 15 years to grow. Some tree bridges are up to 30 m (100 ft) long, and can support the weight of 50 people or more at once. Local people use hollowed-out tree trunks to guide new roots into position and ensure the structure is strong.
Tree shaping transforms plants into living art. Bending, weaving, and twisting help these sculptures take shape. The art form takes advantage of a process called inosculation – where tissue from two different plants, or parts of a plant that are touching, knits itself together.