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Morphology of The Musaceae Family: Bananas and Plantains.

Bananas and plantains (Musa spp.) are the world's largest perennial herbs. The plants can grow to a height of 3 m. and produce over 150 fingers, as the fruits are called. Wild bananas originated in Asia and were domesticated over 4,000 years ago. Cultivation spread westward through the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa, where the plants were 'discovered' by European explorers who then introduced bananas to the New World in the 16th century.


The corm is the underground stem of the banana plant from which the roots and suckers develop. The roots and suckers form a dense "mat." The meristem (growing tip) is located at the top of the corm. The picture to the right shows the root system, suckers, and pseudostem eminating from the corm.



Leaves develop from the meristem and grow upward in a tightly coiled stalk called the pseudostem. This leaf sheath is the only support system for the plant's fruit.



The leaves of a banana plant are about 2 m long and highly veined. The leaves often split along the veins in high winds; moderately split leaves can increase surface cooling and gas exchange, thus improving photosynthesis. (Karamura and Karamura in Gowen)



The fruit stalk or rachis grows upward through the center of the pseudostem and produces a large inflorescence upon emergence from the stem. Female flowers develop along the upper inflorescence, and male flowers along the lower inflorescence. Neutral flowers grow between male and female flowers.

female flower

Picture of Inflorescence


Picture of Male Flower

male flower


The banana bunch grows from the female flowers. Each banana is called a finger, and groups of bananas are called hands. The fruit is protected by its peel, which is comprised of the epidermis, parenchyma tissue, and fibrovasular bundles.

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