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the web of life in southern Africa

Musa acuminata (Banana, Plantain)

Life > eukaryotes > Archaeoplastida > Chloroplastida > Charophyta > Streptophytina > Plantae (land plants) > Tracheophyta (vascular plants) > Euphyllophyta > Lignophyta (woody plants) > Spermatophyta (seed plants) > Angiospermae (flowering plants) > Monocotyledons > Order: Zingiberales > Family: Musaceae

Musa acuminata (Banana, Plantain) Musa acuminata (Banana, Plantain)

Musa acuminata in fruit. [photos H.G. Robertson, Iziko ]

All edible bananas orginate in whole or in part from Musa acuminata which is native to the Malay Peninsula and adjacent regions. In prehistoric times, people selected plants with seedless fruits and since then they have been propagated vegetatively from suckers. Although there are huge commercial operations exporting bananas from tropical regions to rich countries in temperate regions, the majority of bananas are grown by small farmers in tropical countries for local consumption.

Musa acuminata (Banana)  

Musa acuminata (Banana). [photo H. Robertson, Iziko ]

 

Musa acuminata is a species native to the Malay Peninsula and adjacent regions and is thought to have given rise in total or in part to all edible banana varieties. Some of the varieties have arisen as a result of hybridisation between Musa acuminata and Musa balbisiana the latter of which is found from India eastwards to the tropical Pacific. This hybridisation probably occurred as Musa acuminata plants (2n genome = AA) were increasingly cultivated over the distributional range of Musa balbisiana (2n genome = BB). Although the Musa acuminata cultivars were sterile because of being seedless, they did produce fertile pollen.

Despite the huge commercial operations exporting bananas from tropical countries to rich, temperate countries mainly in North America and Europe, it has been estimated that about 85% of all bananas produced, are grown by small farmers for local consumption.

References

  • Sauer, J.D. 1993. Historical geography of crop plants - a select roster. CRC Press, Boca Raton, Florida.

 

Text by Hamish Robertson