In the twin city of Howrah, on the bank of River Hooghly, are the majestic Indian Botanical Gardens, spread over an area of 273 acres. The oldest and probably the biggest in the country, these gardens were established in July 1786 as a pleasure retreat for Colonel Kyd of the East India Company. Later it was developed by him for the collection of plants, indigenous to the country and for the introduction and acclimatization of plants from foreign lands. The star attraction is the 250-year old banyan tree with nearly 2,000 aerial roots, making it the largest tree of its kind in the world. Other notable botanical specimens are the double coconut tree from Sicily, the branching palm tree from Brazil, the multicoloured bamboo trees, the mad tree, various cacti and orchids. There is a huge lake, with a large variety of aquatic plants, including the rare Victoria Amazonica. Today this flora museum is a home to 35,000 types of fruits and flowers, besides 15,000 other botanical specimens, including medicinal plants. It also houses a library containing an invaluable collection of rare books on botany and allied subjects.