MUSACEAE - The Banana Family

This is a small family of only about 40 species in two genera (Musa and Ensete) found in wet tropical lowlands, although recently one or two species have been found in higher latitudes. They are grown mainly for their fruit, the Banana, and for their fibres, manila and hemp, used for making rope. They are also grown as ornamental plants.

Characteristics of this Plant Family:

Leaves, Stem & Roots ~ Members of this Family are not woody plants. They are herbaceous plants, with thick pseudostems formed from the leaf sheaths. The leaves are very large, sheathing the stem, and arranged spirally. There is a thick oval midrib, with veins running from the midrib to the leaf margin. The leaves are entire at first, but torn by the wind. The genus Musa produces new plants from rhizomatous roots and is perennial, while plants in the genus Ensete are unbranched and monocarpic.

Flowers ~ The flowers are surrounded by bracts and are terminal, produced from the growing points of the basal corms. The flowers are irregular and unisexual, the female flowers in clusters ('hands'), while the male flowers are on the end of the flower spike of the same plant. There are two whorls of three petal-like segments, and five stamens. Pollination is often by bats or lizards.

Seeds ~ The ovary is inferior (underneath the flower), and the fruit is a fleshy berry with many stony seeds, although the edible Banana is a hybrid and does not produce seeds.

Members of this Family usually have:

A pseudostem formed from the leaf sheaths
Very large leaves
Leaves with a thick midrib and parallel veins
Separate male and female flowers on the same plant
Flowers and fruit in dense bunches
Fleshy fruit with several hard stony seeds

Back to the Introduction to Plant Families