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Old 08-03-2022, 12:21 PM   #3 (permalink)
hash n mash
Location: seattle
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Default Re: species that can be crossed

Reading through the banana wiki entry for Musa Sikkimensis makes me think it would be an excellent candidate. It is described as “one of the best species for cool, marine climates” and “the species of banana that grows best at low temperatures” as well as hardy to zone 5. Unfortunately it also mentions that they can have issues with rot in cold wet winters, which is very typical for the PNW. The way the wiki is worded makes it sound like M Sikkimensis is better at growing in cool weather but M Basjoo is better at surviving cold winters, although that might just be me overinterpreting things. Either way M Sikkimensis is probably a better candidate than M Basjoo because it can be crossed with M Acuminata, as shown by the existence of Helen’s Hybrid. The wiki also mentions that M Sikkimensis is quite variable from plant to plant. This means I would probably have to be somewhat selective in which plants I use to get decent results. Ideally I'd find someone in the region who already has an individual that grows well here and can overwinter without rotting.
The other option is to grow a lot of M sikkimensis from seed and hope I get one that does well in this climate. Testing whether a plant can grow in cool weather would be relatively easy. By exposing plants to cool temperatures early I would be able to reject any that don’t grow well before I wasted much energy or space on them. Testing winter hardiness would be a lot more intensive, I don't know this for certain but would guess that larger established plants overwinter better and I have neither the space nor energy to do that for more than just a couple. I suppose it would be possible to expose them to cold wet soil early, but I’d want a bit more experience with bananas in general before trying to figure out the best way to do that. Out of the two options, finding one in the region and getting either pollen or a sucker seems like it would be easiest.
I had assumed the best way for me to get pollen would be to protect a plant outside over the winter so it can flower, but the idea of shipping pollen sounds a lot easier. I know many flowers continue to develop and eventually produce pollen even after being cut, but I'm not sure if bananas do that. If they do, shipping a flower would probably be a good way to get pollen. Maybe that's a question for a separate thread.
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