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Banana Family

Banana nomenclature is not perfect.  As a result, to be precise, I have had to use the species name followed by the authority (botanist who published the name), where it was published and the year it was published.  For example, in one case, I am specifying Musa rubra Wallich ex Kurz, J. Agric. Soc. India 14: 301. 1867., not Musa rubra Firminger ex Baker, Annals of Botany. Oxford 7(26): 213. 1893. 

While the banana species on this page are root-hardy perennials in south-central Texas, none will flower and produce fruit if allowed to freeze.  If you want flowers, the stalks must be dug out in mid- to late-October (or just before a hard freeze is expected) and have the expanded leaf blades removed,  There is no need to pot them; lay them on the garage floor and forget about them until late-March.  Replant in soil enriched with well-composted manure and secure with a stake until they re-root.  All the Ensete species require this treatment.
Musa 'Gran Nain Cross' - Also known as Musa 'X Cross' - A hybrid of: Musa acuminata subsp. zebrina 'Sumatrana' and Musa X 'Gran Nain'  - Perennial 

Many root-hardy bananas thrive in our area and it is hard to pick a favorite. This hybrid, however, would be on anyone's top 10 list. It is a cross of a 'Rojo' type with maroon variegated leaves and one of the outstanding commercial varieties of the tropics, 'Gran Nain'. The plant photographed here, with a stem about 3 feet tall, is showing the transition from leaves with a green top to the mature form with maroon blotching. But all leaves, even the lowest ones, have a maroon underside. It stays under 10' (typically 6' to 8') and bears small, seedless berries. Grows in full sun to half-day sun.  Looks best if given a deep watering every week during a dry summer.

Ensete glaucum (Roxburgh) Cheesman, Kew Bull. 2: 101. 1947 (1948). - Also know as: Musa glauca Roxburgh, Pl. Coromandel 3: 96. 1820. - Snow Banana - Tender Perennial - Pseudostem to 14' high with a swollen base and marked with black-purple spots in old plants. Flowering stalk huge, to 8'. Green bracts are many and give stalk a "reptilian" effect. Fruits dark-purple with a waxy sheen. Like most Century Plants, these die after flowering, but produce seeds for the next generation. Even though I know their fate, I can't wait for mine to flower!

Ensete ventricosum (Welw.) Cheesman, Kew Bull.  2: 101 1947 (1948). - Abyssinian Banana - Tender Perennial - A popular ornamental sold by most nurseries. 

Ensete ventricosum 'Maurelii' - Abyssinian Banana - Tender Perennial - A popular ornamental sold by most nurseries. 

Ensete wilsonii (Tutcher) Cheesman, Kew Bull. 2: 103. 1947 (1948). - Also known as: Musa wilsonii Tutcher, Gard. Chron., ser. 3, 32: 450. 1902. - Wilson's Snow Banana -  Tender Perennial - Pseudostem massive, to 7' high and 18" in diameter at base.  Flowering stalk to 3'. Bracts green and blooms white. The fruits are golden yellow. The cold-hardiest forms are from over 8800 feet above sea level in Yunnan.

Musa acuminata Colla, Mem. Gen. Musa, 66. 1820. - Banana, Plantain - Perennial - Pseudostems with black blotches, up to 16' high. Flowering stalk somewhat bent.  Bracts blood-red to purple, tips rarely yellow. Flowers white to pale-yellow. Wild plants produce seedy fruits. Cultivated forms are seedless and include varieties like: Musa acuminata 'Dwarf Cavendish'.

Musa acuminata subsp. zebrina - Sold under the following names: 'Rojo', 'Rubra', 'Sumatrana' or 'Zebrina'  - Perennial - A popular ornamental sold by most nurseries. 

Musa balbisiana Colla, Mem. Gen. Musa, 56. 1820. - Seedy Banana - Perennial - Stalks tall, often bearing large, black blotches. Inner face of bract purple-red, outer face dull purple to yellow-green. Blooms light purple with yellow to orange tips. Pendant flowering stalk, usually with numerous, small fruits.

Musa basjoo Siebold & Zuccarini, Verh. Batav. Genootsch. Kunsten 12: 18. 1831. - Basjoo Banana - Perennial

The most northerly of all species of banana in nature, from the Ryukyu Islands, off Japan.  Thus, possibly the world's cold hardiest banana. Has long, slender leaves. Its flowering spike is very attractive, bearing barely edible fruit (small and seedy) at maturity. The 16' to 20' stalks form large clumps eventually. Grows in full sun to half-day sun. Looks best if given a deep watering every week during a dry summer.

Musa coccinea Andrews, Bot. Repos. 1: t. 47. 1799. - Also known as: Musa uranoscopos Loureiro, Flora Cochinchinensis 645. 1790. - Scarlet Banana - Perennial - Pseudostems 4' to 6' high. Upright flowering stalk. Bracts beautiful, pink and blood-red, crinkled and wavy. Flowers yellow and seedy fruits dirty-white.

Musa formosana (Warburg ex Schumann) Hayata, Icon. Pl. Formos. 6(Suppl): 83. 1917. - Also known as Musa paradisiaca L. var. formosana Warburg ex Schumann in Engler, Pflanzenr. 1(IV. 45): 21. 1900. - Formosan Banana - Perennial - Pseudostems to 16', in clusters. Flowering stalk downward hanging. Bracts yellow, ovate, flowers pale yellow.  Fruits golden-bronze. Most cold-hardy forms derived from collections above 3000 foot elevation in Taiwan.

Musa itinerans Cheesman, Kew Bull. 4: 23. 1949. - Forest Banana - Perennial - Stalks purple in age, 12' to 16' high. Flowering spike recurved, velvety. Inner face of bracts yellow, outer face dark red-purple, often striped and edged with yellow bands. Flowers unremarkable. Fruits to 3" long, velvety white, and very seedy.

Musa ornata Roxburgh, Flora Indica; or descriptions ... 2: 488-489. 1824. - Thought by some to be of hybrid origin: Musa flaviflora X Musa velutina - Ornamental Banana - Perennial - A native of India, now found throught the tropics and sub-tropics worldwide. It, or its hybrids, is the most common of the ornamental bananas.

Musa paradisiaca L., Sp. Pl. 2: 1043. 1753. (Thought to be a hybrid, M. acuminata X M. balbisiana.) - Also known as: Musa paradisiaca subsp. sapientum (L.) Kuntze; Musa sapientum L. - Edible Banana - Perennial - The common edible banana. Many varieties are available.

Musa X Rajapuri - Rajapuri Banana - Perennial - One of the hardiest and toughest of all the edible banana cultivars.  Generallly stays under 10 feet, is cold hardy and wind-resistant. The heads of fruit are of moderate size with very sweet, medium-sized fruit. It is a favorite banana of India. Can be afected by Root Knot Nematodes and Burrowing Nematodes.

Musa rubra Wallich ex Kurz, J. Agric. Soc. India 14: 301. 1867. - Not Musa rubra Firminger ex Baker, Annals of Botany. Oxford 7(26): 213. 1893, which is an invalid name for Musa sapientum var. rubra. - Red Banana - Perennial - Pseudostems dark purple, 6' to 10' high. Leaf base spectacular, purple to reddish-purple. Leaf dark green above and yellow-green below. Flowering stalk upright, velvety brown with pink bracts. Flowers 5 or 6 per bract, golden yellow. Fruits red and very seedy.

Musa sanguinea J. D. Hooker, Bot. Mag. 98: t. 5975. 1872.- Blood Banana - Perennial - Pseudostems 6' to 8' high with erect flower stalk which ultimately bends downward.  The flowering stalk is velvety brown, the bracts reddish. Flowers 3 per bract, yellow.  Fruits seedy with red markings, 2" to 3" long. 

Musa "sikkimensis" - Also known as: Musa hookeri - Himalayan Banana - Perennial - An attractive, cold-tolerant banana from the foothills of the Himalaya. The best forms have the red markings of Musa acuminata subsp. zebrina 'Rojo'. 

Musa velutina H. Wendl. & Drude, Gartenflora 24: 65-67. 1875. - Velvet Banana - Perennial - Forms a cluster of pseudostems 4' to 9' high. The leaf undersides have a faint red blush.  Flower stalk is erect, with dark pink bracts and pale yellow blooms.   Fruits usually red-purple, with a velvety exterior.

Musa "yunnanensis" - Yunnan Mountain Banana - Perennial - Plants propagated from high elevation sites do best in our area.

Musella lasiocarpa (Franchet) C. Y. Wu ex Li Hsi-wen, Acta Phytotaxonomica Sinica 16(3): 56. 1978. - Golden Mountain Banana - Perennial - A rare banana relative from 1500 to 2500 m. in southern Guizhou and central to western Yunnan provinces in China. It is very cold-hardy since it occurs at elevations up to 2800 meters above sea level, near the Tibetan border. We introduced this exceedingly rare plant locally in 1999. The plant is spectacular, with succulent, golden bracts on an upright inflorescence which can exceed six-inches in diameter and last for months! Golden Mountain Banana grows to approximately 2-meters-high and does best with shade after 1:00 PM in central Texas. With sufficient fertilization, plants will form numerous stems in tight clumps, just like a Canna. Unlike true bananas, wind-damage is not usually a problem with Musella.

Musella splendida R. V. Valmayor & L. D. Danh, The Philippine Agricultural Scientist 85 (2): 204 - 209 (2002). - Vietnamese Golden Mountain Banana - Perennial - This newly-described species is reported to be larger than M. lasiocarpa.

The botanical images on this site were produced by The Photon Hunt.

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Copyright at Common Law by Manuel Flores