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BANANA

The Banana Tree is actually a herbaceous plant. (see graphics at bottom of the page)

Banana Trees grow very rapidly under good conditions and reach maturity in one season, in the Houston, Texas area. They can bear bananas the first year, but usually they need a year to build up not only one Banana Tree trunk, but a number of smaller trunks immediately around the bottom and some suckers. All of these contribute to nourish the largest tree, which will then blossom, produce bananas and then this trunk dies.

Bananas have broad, long, graceful leaves of dark green which may be a foot or more across. The leaves stay in one flat sheet, unless there are strong winds in which case the leaves tatter. The tears are from the edges to the central part of the leaf stem. The tearing does not seem to affect much the leaves ability to function as the leaves stay dark green and do not show signs of dying any earlier than other leaves which are not torn.

In the more tropical parts of the United States Banana Trees are a favorite for planting around pools and patio areas or just a corner of the yard where one hopes to have a harvest of bananas. Bananas are good tasting and very nutritious in a number of vitamins and minerals. Most varieties are usually eaten raw, but your curator likes to make Banana-Nut Bread from home grown bananas.

Banana is a tropical herbaceous plant consisting of an underground corm and a trunk (pseudostem) comprised of concentric layers of leaf sheaths. At 10 to 15 months after the emergence of a new plant, its true stem rapidly grows up through the center and emerges as a terminal inflorescence which bears fruit. Banana cannot take freezing and in cold weather may die back completely. However, if the area of the Banana is covered, it will come out hail and hearty the next spring.

When the Banana is large enough to bloom and bear fruit a purple-maroon torpedo shaped growth appears out of the top of usually the largest of the trunks. This growth is in layers, called "bracts", which peel up each day revealing the flowers, which appear in groups, called "hands". Each day, after some hours, the bract and the blossoms will fall off. The first "hands" to appear are the female flowers, which will develop into bananas. These are usually seedless in edible species of banana trees. The number of hands of female flowers varies from a few to more than 10. Following the female flowers there will be quite a few hands of sterile flowers, which also appear as a bract rolls up, and both are later in the day shed as well. Following these sterile flowers are a number of "hands" of male flowers. The male flowers are also covered by a bract which rolls up exposing the male flowers. This opening of one of the bracts and exposing flowers is virtually a daily occurrence until all flowers have been exposed.

In the Philippines and other tropical countries, the purple-maroon "fruit" is sometimes cut and cooked. It is good, if a bit bitter tasting, according to my Filipino wife.

For more information on the Banana Tree go to http://www.proctormuseum.us; then click on MASTER INDEX; then click on Plants & Trees; and finally click on Banana Trees.



Banana blossoms on
tips of new green bananas
Bee on Banana blossoms
(click to see better)
Banana blooming stalk
with bract rolled back to
show Banana blossoms
Banana blooming stalk
with bract rolled back to
show Banana blossoms
Bract with four
Banana blossoms
Wonderful Banana
Nut Bread
fresh from the oven