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Species Bananas Discussions of all the different wild species of banana (non edible), an aspect of the hobby that deserves its own section.


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Old 08-02-2022, 07:03 PM   #1 (permalink)
 
Location: seattle
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Default species that can be crossed

I'm interested in trying to cross different species of banana in order to create some sort of hybrid that could fruit outdoors in the PNW. At least where I live in the PNW that means producing fruit in about seven months, with most of that time being somewhat cool. I'm not sure if that's feasible, but at the very least I'll end up with some pretty plants so why not try.
The first thing I'm wondering about is how easy banana species are to cross, I know most edible bananas are hybrids of Musa Acuminata and Musa Balbasinia, so I assume those two cross somewhat easily. Beyond that I don't know much about which species can be hybridized.
From what i've researched Musa Velutina can fruit faster then most species so would probably be a good candidate for this project. Does anybody know which species would be most likely to hybridize with Musa Velutina, or have suggestions for others that fruit quickly?
I've also read that Musa Velutina requires a fair bit of summer heat, which the PNW does not provide. Does anybody have suggestions for bananas that can grow in cool summers, ideally species that fruit quickly or can be crossed with Musa Velutina.
Species or varieties that can fruit in a pot would be ideal so I can take them inside during the winter, but I would probably be able to protect one or two plants outside as well.
Any advice would be greatly appreciated
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Old 08-02-2022, 09:36 PM   #2 (permalink)
 
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Default Re: species that can be crossed

That is an excellent question, and one I have pondered myself. I think the issue in our climate ( I am not too far from you ), as you mentioned, is cycle time and heat. There are short cycle bananas that do flower and fruit within a relatively short time period, but I think they are fairly finicky when it comes to cool weather.

I think fruiting bananas outside of the tropics or sub-tropics is, and will likely continue to be, a very hit and miss affair which will require a lot of luck, and extensive inputs by the grower...either time or money or both. It certainly can be done and many people have, but I gather it is not an easy process.

I would be interested in M. basjoo crosses if that is even possible. It seems to me that would be the most promising companion for a northern edible banana cross. Maybe a basjoo and a short cycle - I really may just be dreaming...it would be difficult enough the get the pollen and flowers together...although maybe pollen is shipable?

There is a cross supposedly between M. sikkimensis, a cold hardy banans, and M. chinichampa, an edible one, called Helen's Hybrid. In my experience (seedlings) it most definitely seems hardier than Dwarf Orinoco but won't overwinter outside here. I haven't fruited it, and don't know if I will ever be lucky enough to do so, but it does grow well here through the growing season and might be a viable option for fruiting. It is supposed to have a decent fruit with seeds. I posted a little bit about my experience with it here Musa HH, my experience

Anyway, It certainly could be fun to play with....so I too and interested in any educated responses
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Old 08-03-2022, 12:21 PM   #3 (permalink)
 
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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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Old 08-03-2022, 07:28 PM   #4 (permalink)
 
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Default Re: species that can be crossed

I grew sikkimensis just outside Portland, Oregon at about 700ft elevation for a number of years before moving. I only lost the p-stem one year when I didn't protect it very well, but it came back quickly. All other years it did fine.

I wish I had more appreciation for what I had at the time.

For all I know, it might still be there.

I still get the impression it isn't the easiest plant to find, even in the states, and I suspect what, if any, circulating specimens are around are from seed fairly recently - which I have had no luck germinating - and, as you mentioned, may vary in temperament.

However, this is the place to find such things so hopefully a source with a good, tested hardy cultivar will come forward.

Keep us posted.
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