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Main Banana Discussion This is where we discuss our banana collections; tips on growing bananas, tips on harvesting bananas, sharing our banana photos and stories.


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Old 08-12-2010, 02:52 PM   #1 (permalink)
 
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Default How many different types?

How many different type of banana plants are there? I know there are some we might not know about but.. How many are in the trade or have been seen growing? Have alot of them been made in labs/GH by people or wild?
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Old 08-12-2010, 03:30 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: How many different types?

No one knows exactly how many different types there are, and the many complexities and issues with taxonomy make it difficult to even define what is worth being called "different". Some differences are very small, and some are very big, but for this question let's consider that any difference is a significant difference.

Of the wild bananas, there are approximately 70 published wild species, but a good deal more known but undescribed species, and of course an unknown number of unknown and undescribed species (as more new species are being found all the time, I think it's safe to assume this will continue for some time). Additionally, most wild banana species have a number of natural varieties which usually vary by location within a larger population. If we assume an average of 5 different forms of each basic species (which is probably rather conservative, given some species are known to have well over 10 known varieties), and there are about 70 species, 350 different wild bananas would be a reasonably estimation, but I think this number to be low in reality, maybe it's even closer 1,000 or more (why not?!). In addition, there are natural hybrids of wild species that occur in overlapping populations. And finally, there are wild species that have been domesticated for non-fruit use, but they are generally not regarded as domesticated plants, so there are many distinct varieties which are not really recognized or known by most scientists. Examples: Musa balbisiana, M. textilis and Ensete ventricosum all have many domesticated selections.

If you consider landraces, and nothing created from breeding programs, the estimations vary from about 300 to 1,000. My personal estimation is somewhere in the 2,000-4,000 range just for landrace cultivars. Even though landrace cultivars are inherently known now or in the past by someone, no one person or organization has seen and documented them all, and more are still being found and recognized by scientists.

If you consider the products of breeding programs, the basic question is made extremely complex, because there have been literally tens of thousands, likely even hundreds of thousands of genetically unique banana plants created. Of course only a small fraction have been the final, useful products of the breeding programs, but if we are taking the original question literally, then I suppose they must be counted and considered. Also, many of these breeding lines are quickly lost or thrown out, so there is some difference between all the banana varieties that exist versus all that have ever existed.

So in summary with low estimates and high estimates and depending on viewpoint of "different"...

Wild plants: 70-1,000
Landrace cultivars: 300-4,000
Breeding lines:100,000+
Others: who knows...
Grand total: 370-infinity.....no one knows the exact number, and due to breeding and improvement it's a constantly growing number, but we do there's a lot of bananas out there.

Note this is partially based on data, and partially based on my personal estimations and thoughts.
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Old 08-12-2010, 04:59 PM   #3 (permalink)
 
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Default Re: How many different types?

Was hoping you would reply to this post . Its amazing how much you know about banana plants. Studing and research pays off thats for sure. It sure would be awesome if they would sell all the banana plants they created in labs. Like put them out on the market for nurseries and stuff. I understand some die for some reasons and maybe others couldn't survive tests they put them too. I'm sure alot of plants have been lost from areas being cut down for land.
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Old 08-12-2010, 05:38 PM   #4 (permalink)
 
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Default Re: How many different types?

All I was going to say was that in Bananas: The fate of the fruit that changed the world it mentions that in India alone they have over 670 varieties.

The fact that there are so many varieties is a major reason I like this banana hobby of mine. The rest of my life can be spent growing and and breeding them and it would always be new
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Old 08-12-2010, 06:08 PM   #5 (permalink)
 
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Default Re: How many different types?

Wow thats crazy stuff! Thanks for the input.
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Old 08-15-2010, 07:15 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Default Re: How many different types?

I forgot to add that there are perhaps only about 150 or so in the normal hobby trade, but with maybe less than 40 being the most common.

And thinking about it now, the above figures were based only on Musa. In addition there are 6 good published Ensete species and some other known Ensete of uncertain classification which may be published as new species some day. Ensete is rather poorly studied, but one study found about 50 different cultivars in Ethiopia (where it is a food crop), and it is also very diverse in the wild as it has a rather large range.
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Old 08-15-2010, 09:17 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Default Re: How many different types?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gabe15 View Post
Grand total: 370-infinity.....no one knows the exact number
Keep in mind that infinity is not a number, but instead refers to unbounded ranges. Any number we might assign to the total number of banana species and cultivars is finite. Millions is probably a good answer.
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