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Old 01-29-2008, 10:23 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Musa yunnanensis officially described!

I was looking through the quarterly journal Novon, published by Missouri Botanical Garden, in last year's December issue today (next one comes out in March, etc.). I found an article in there that describes Musa yunnanensis and Musa acuminata var. chinensis. Both are found in the Yunnan province. It states:

"Musa yunnanensis grows abundantly in the Mekong River watersheds on slopes from 500-1800 m. The plants can tolerate seasonal frosts, which occur from Jan. to Feb. at higher elevations in Yunnan, China...
...seeds germinate easily even in shaded environments. However, these young plants then remain dormant for years. When exposed to light, the young plants thrive."

OK, I thought the fact that the young plants stay dormant for years after germination was very interesting! The plants do tolerate shade, and in fact the plant is called the "tree banana" by locals because it grows under forest canopy. However, it doesn't really start to grow until exposed to some good light. It is also "cultivated up to 2100 m, and the stems used as animal fodder."

Another interesting note:

"The first author tentatively used the name Musa yunnanensis without describing it a few years ago (Hakkinen, unpublished data) when seeds came to commercial markets in Yunnan."

That is interesting to me because I have been maintaining for some time now that the seeds and plants first offered to us as Musa itinerans are in fact Musa yunnanensis.

Now, onto some key descriptors!

"Plant normal, suckering freely, close to parent plant...mature pseudostem up to 5m...underlying color light green with purple-black blotches, waxy, sap watery...petiole to 70 cm, waxy, petiole margins curved inward with purple-black sparse blotching, petiole bases winged and clasping pseudostem, very waxy; leaf habit...narrowly elliptic, truncate at apex...leaf bases symmetric, both sides rounded and auriculate (having auricles, ears, or earlike parts, as the base of a leaf). ...Inflorescence at first horizontal and then falling vertically downward. ...Basal flowers hermaphrodite...Male bud lanceolate, ca. 12 X 4 cm, bracts red-purple externally, cream internally, with some wax outside, with pointed yellowish apex, lifting several bracts bracts at a time, revolute before falling, the whole bud aborting before fruits mature. ...Fruit bunch lax, with 8 hands and 15 fruits per hand on average, in 2 rows, fingers curved toward the stalk, individual fruit ca. 8 cm, curved with a pronounces ridge, pedicel ca. 22 mm, glabrous, fruit apex rounded, without relictual floral remains, immature peel color green, becoming light yellowish green with black blotches and splitting lengthwise at maturity....."

That's the cliff notes version. So, let's compare some of these descriptors with my alleged Musa yunnanensis:

"underlying color light green with purple-black blotches"

"petiole margins curved inward with purple-black sparse blotching, petiole bases winged and clasping pseudostem, very waxy"

"leaf habit...narrowly elliptic, truncate at apex"

"leaf bases symmetric, both sides rounded and auriculate (having auricles, ears, or earlike parts, as the base of a leaf)." I had a hard time finding a picture of a darn leaf base, so it'll have to wait. But to sort of show what they look like, this Musa thomsonii leaf base is very similar (look at the biggest leaf on the right):

As far as inflorescences, Eric in Orlando has pictures of them, and they and the fruit match the description perfectly. In my mind now, there is almost no doubt that this banana is Musa yunnanensis. Furthermore, it is a very cold-hardy banana! Mine comes back in March, for crying out loud, in zone 7a. Obviously, it is not Musa itinerans, so I'm not going to call it that anymore. It fits the description for Musa yunnanensis to a "T." Does anybody think otherwise?

Gabe, inkcube, anybody else...I'd like to hear people weigh in on this with their opinions. I sure would like to positively ID this banana once and for all! Thanks,

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