Species Plantarum: 1043 (1753); Argent, Notes R. Bot. Gard. Edinb. 35: 77-114 (1976), rev.
Type: M. paradisiaca L.
Large, rhizomatous, clustering herbs with erect, leafy shoots from 2-15 m in height at maturity. Pseudostem narrow, composed of tightly wrapped, sheathing leaf bases. Buds arising leaf-opposed in a one-to-one correlation with the axils. Leaves large, spirally arranged; petiole green, sometimes tinged red or purple, often glaucous, 20-100 cm long, 2-6 cm in diameter; blade with central midrib and lateral venation, midrib typically sunken and paler above, prominently round-raised below, lateral venation relatively weak, base often unequal, typically obtuse, although sometimes acute to decurrent onto petiole, apex acute to acuminate, typically dried on mature leaves, upper surface typically green, sometimes glaucous, lower surface green, often paler than upper surface, sometimes glaucous, 0.5 to over 2 m long, 20-60 cm wide. Inflorescence terminal on leafy shoot, erect or pendent, to about 5 m long, consisting of a peduncle, rachis, and bracts; peduncle green or red, sometimes glaucous or pubescent, less than 1 m long, less than 10 cm in diameter; internodes 3-8 cm long in lower portion, 1-3 cm long in upper (male) portion; bracts spirally arranged, usually deciduous, occasionally persisting, subtending 1-7 flowers arranged in one or two rows in the basal section, subtending 2-approximately 20 flowers in the upper portion, 3-12 bracts in the lower portion, much more numerous in the upper (male) portion, oriented 50-90 degrees to axis of inflorescence, red, orange, violet, magenta, 10-30 cm long, 5-15 cm wide at base; lowest bract often without any flowers. Basal flowers female or partially hermaphroditic; pedicel less than 2 cm long, typically more or less concolorous with ovary; perianth from 3-8 cm in length, consisting of a tepal composed of the three sepals and two petals fused, and a free inner petal; the fused tepal typically 5-lobed, spanning the full circumference of the flower at the base of the tepal, white, yellow, green in color; free petal one-half as long to as long as the fused tepal, often more membranaceous, less brightly colored, and more transparent than the tepal, typically rounded at the apex, never lobed, often deciduous soon after anthesis; stamens five, median stamen of the inner whorl absent, those present often not fertile, in some groups present only as filaments, in others showing partial development of the anthers resulting in pollen production; filaments attached basally, free at apex, anthers (when developed) typically incomplete; ovary inferior, 3.3-5.7 cm long, yellow, green, purple, red, three-celled, the ovules numerous in 2-4 rows per locule, the style filiform, straight, the stigma often conical, three-lobed. Upper flowers always exclusively male, with an undeveloped ovary; pedicel short, concolorous with ovary; perianth from 3-8 cm in length, closely resembling that of the basal flowers; stamens five, median inner whorl stamen absent, pistil usually present, not fertile, often reduced; Fruits usually indehiscent, seldom dehiscent (M. velutina), quite fleshy and moist, typically glabrous, occasionally glaucous or hirsute, 5-20 cm long, 2-5 cm wide, red, violet, yellow, in color; seeds irregularly globose, lenticular, or cylindrical, non-arillate or showing very rudimentary aril, with prominent chalazal cavity, less than 10 mm in length, 4-8 mm in diameter, many seeds per fruit; embryo straight to slightly t-shaped. 2n=14 (M. ingens), 20, 22, possibly 18 (M. beccarii). (From Kubitzki, et al., p. 300)
Native to the paleotropics, cultivated extensively pantropically, with some naturalized stands in the Neotropics. In the Paleotropics, apparently native to India, Malaysia, New Guinea, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Myanmar, Thailand, Java, Philippines, China, and Queensland.
The diversity of the group is not well defined, as numerous authors have worked on the genus, and the group awaits a current revision to determine the actual species diversity. Most authors cite approximately 30 species in the genus. Determining the exact diversity of the group is further complicated by the presence of numerous cultivars and hybrids. Typically, the genus has been divided into several sections: Australimusa, Callimusa, Musa, Ingentimusa, and Rhodochlamys, although other sections have been recognized in the past. Recently, molecular evidence has suggested that at least some of these groups are not natural, and need to be re-organized. However, this work remains to be completed. Some putative members of Musa and Ensete also appear in the fossil record.
Ecology and Pollination Biology:
Pollination is thought to depend largely on the type of inflorescence. Species with pendent inflorescences are pollinated mostly by macroglossine bats. Species with erect inflorescences are thought to be ornithophilous, pollinated primarily by sunbirds (Nectriniidae) and honeyeaters (Meliphagidae), as well as by tree shrews (Tupaia). Those species with hermaphroditic flowers are apparently self-pollinating (Nur, 1976; Itino et al., 1991).
Common Names, Uses and Notes:
Banana, plantain -- typically, the edible banana and plantain are represented by various cultivars and hybrids collectively known as M. paradisiaca or M. sapientum. Many of these cultivars actually represent hybrids between M. acuminata (and its varieties) and M. balbisiana (Moore, 1957). Most of these are sterile triploids which do not produce seed. Musa textilis is known as Manila Hemp; its fibers are used commercially much as those of Cannabis; other species which produce seeds are generally called "Wild Bananas"; leaves are often used for thatching, fan-making, and as a food wrap in cooking (Simmonds, 1966).
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