Musa acuminata (Banana)

This familiar monocot is the parent for the hybrids which produce the bananas commonly sold at grocery stores. This species grows up to 20 feet tall at maturity, making it one of the largest herbs known to date. These plants are frequently grown for their unique foliage and fast growth rate.

Musa acuminata (Banana)
Deciduous: no
Hardiness Zones: 10-11
Height: 3-6 meters (10-20) feet tall
Diameter: 5-10 feet in diameter
Growth Rate: fast (can reach full height in a single year)
Age: perennial
Root System: The roots send out a new sucker once the primary pseudostem dies; these typically form around a “clump”, the center of the plant.
Family: Musaceae
Subspecies: ‘Dwarf Cavendish’ (much smaller, up to 6 feet tall), ‘Colla’

Tolerates: not much, unfortunately
Problems (major): Since these are primarily composed of water,
Problems (minor): Aphids, scale, mealybugs, nematodes, sigatoka, spider mites, wilt, anthracnose, weevils, and mosiac virus. These need a lot of space to grow.
Poisonous: Presumably no, the fruit is edible.

Soil requirements: requires consistently moist soils with good drainage
Air Requirements: relatively high humidity is preferred
Watering requirement: moderate
Sun requirement: full sun, tolerates part-shade

Leaf shape: Paddle-shaped, fairly large
Leaf size: 1-2 meters (6-10 feet) long and 0.6 meters (2 feet) wide once mature
Stem: Succulent, juicy, properly named “pseudostem” (these are made up entirely of old leaves)
Flowering structure: Flowers are cream and yellow colored. The inflorescence is typically reddish-pink with female (pistillate) flowers.
Flowering frequency: Flowering typically won’t occur until the plant consistently grows for 2 or 3 years.
Fruits: Familiar, medium sized bananas (start off green, then turn yellow, then brown) occur in groups of 10-25 for 6-9 clusters per flowering

Bulb/Corm: corm or fleshy rhizome

Notable characteristics:
Produces, and asexually reproduces, by suckers. After the main stem (properly called “pseudostem”) dies off, the roots send up a new “stem”. The oldest sucker from the base of the plant, called the “clump”, replaces the old stem.Most bananas sold in grocery stores are hybrids of Musa acuminata.

The fruit is very widely used as food. The actual plant is grown for its tropical, beautiful, and large foliage. The the fruits, leaves, and “pseudostem” are occasionally used to help treat digestive issues. The leaves are occasionally used to weave specific objects.

Sources used:

bananas_2 Multiple mature banana plants growing in the Climatron at the Missouri Botanic Garden

banana_flower_fruit A close-up of the flowering structure at the Missouri Botanic Garden

banana_fruiting_structure  Fruits and an inflorescence growing at the Missouri Botanic Garden

banana_overhead_1 Massive foliage alongside an inflorescence and several maturing banana fruits at the Missouri Botanic Garden

banana_overhead_2 Multiple M. acuminata plants at the Missouri Botanic Garden

banana_trunk A stem and leaves of a banana plant at the Missouri Botanic Garden

banananana_1 A close-up of the “pseudostem”

banananana_2 New growth on the “pseudostem”

banananana_3 The underside of a juvenile leaf


banananana_5 An emerging leaf accompanied by multiple other leaves

banananana_7 The top portion of an older, wrinkly leaf

banananana_8 A full view of a juvenile banana plant

bananas_1 Several bananas growing at the Missouri Botanic Garden in the Climatron

All these pictures were taken by me December 2012 and December 2013. They may be used for educational and informational purposes only, and this article or journal must be appropriately cited/referenced first.


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