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Ensete Bruce ex Horanino
Prodromus Monographiae Scitaminearum: 40 (1862); Cheesman, Kew Bull. 1947: 97-106 (1947), rev.

Type: E. edule (Bruce) Horaninow

Synonymy: Musa L. sect. Physocaulis Baker

     Large, non-clustering herbs with erect shoots from 4-9 m in height at maturity. Stem relatively short, stout, often much enlarged at base, tapering to apex, 1.5-5 m tall, with petioles loosely sheathing stem, often not completely encircling stem, and therefore not forming a pseudostem.
     Leaves large, spirally arranged, green, often glaucous; petiole green, often tinged reddish, glaucous, U-shaped, usually less than 50 cm long; blade 1-3 m long, 30-60 cm wide, oblong, green, often glaucous above, paler and usually glaucous below, base acute to obtuse, decurrent onto petiole, apex acuminate, typically drying soon after emergence of leaf; midrib sunken, usually prominently so, and paler above, strongly round-rasied, and often tinged red below; lateral venation flat, concolorous above, flat, slightly darker below, departing midrib at 60-80 degree angle.
     Inflorescence terminal on a leafy shoot, considerably exceeding vegetative portion of plant, eventually arching back to ground, often exceeding 2 m in length; internodes short, bracts appressed, persistent, spirally arranged, often green in color, sometimes white, drying or rotting still on plant; most basal bracts often without flowers; basal flowers hermaphroditic, often with anthers not fully developed, but still bearing pollen, although seldom are all five anthers fully developed, or sometimes entirely female, 15-25 flowers per bract, arranged in two rows per bract; upper flowers typically male, 15-30 flowers per bract, arranged in two rows; female portion of inflorescence relatively short; male portion extremely long, with very numerous bracts (>300); female/hermaphroditic flowers typically white or cream colored, male flowers with sepals fused, weakly or more prominently three-lobed, encircling entire flower, overlapping at point of attachment of the petal, with a small opening near the base at the site of overlap; two lateral petals long, narrow, fused at base to sepals, median (free) petal strongly three-lobed, central lobe much longer and narrower than the other two lobes, long-acuminate, outer lobes short, wide, often acute or rounded at apex; stamens 5-6, 5 with fertile anthers, the sixth as a largely aborted filament; male flowers with much shorter, undeveloped ovary, and with 5 fertile stamens, which are prominently exserted at or following anthesis, sixth (inner median stamen) often present as a small, thin staminode; fruit leathery, dry or with little pulp, containing relatively few seeds; seeds globose or irregular, usually smooth, with conspicuous hilum and hilar ridge, 7-16 mm diameter; 2n=18 (Cheesman, 1947).
     Fruit leathery, dry or with little pulp, containing relatively few seeds; seeds globose or irregular, usually smooth, with conspicuous hilum and hilar ridge, 7-16 mm diameter.

Geographical Distribution:
     Ensete occurs primarily on the African continent, but is also known from India, southern China, Thailand, Myanmar, the Philippines, Indonesia, and New Guinea.

Taxonomic Diversity:
     Taxonomists differ considerably on the number of species assigned to this genus. When Cheesman restituted the genus, he assigned 25 species which he removed from Musa (1947). Simmonds and Baker reduced that number to six, largely through synonymizing numerous species with E. ventricosum (1953). Recently, Kress has cited the genus as composed of seven species (1990). Furthermore, this genus has appeared in the fossil record on multiple occasions (Manchester & Kress, 1993; Jain, 1960).

Ecology and Pollination Biology:
     This genus occurs in middle to high elevations, although occassionally reaching into lower regions. It grows in open, moist habitats, along rivers and swamps, and in forest clearings. Dispersal is apparently by monkeys and birds (Baker & Simmonds, 1953). Seed dispersal is apparently not extremely thorough, and many seeds actually germinate at the base of the parent plant, giving it the appearance of clustering as in genus Musa. However, the stems are not connected in any way. Pollination is apparently primarily by macroglossine bats (Nur, 1976).

Common Names, Uses and Notes:
     Abynissian Banana; cultivated for its showy inflorescence; pseudostem eaten as a vegetable (Rao & Hajra, 1976). Leaves used as thatch, umbrellas, mats, wrapping materials; sheaths provide a fiber; milky latex is considered a stimulant to milk flow in nursing mothers (Baker & Simmonds, 1953). Apparently this plant was cultivated as a staple food, possibly as textile, in Egypt during Neolithic times (Baker and Simmonds, 1953).
     Ensete ventricosum (E. edule) is considered extremely variable by Baker and Simmonds--they synonymize many species under this taxon.

Ensete ventricosum (Welw.) Cheesman
NMNH Research Greenhouse manager Mike Bordelon admires example of Ensete superbum in the greenhouse
Ensete superbum (Roxb.) Cheesman
Ensete aff. superbum (Roxb.) Cheesman
Ensete glaucum (Roxb.) Cheesman
Ensete ventricosum (Welw.) Cheesman

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