Musa itinerans

Musa itinerans

Musa itinerans or Yunnan Banana grows fast and its suckers grow quite a distance from the mother plant (over 1 m), hence the name itinerans which means travelling.

The growth is very elongated: long pseudo-trunk and long leaves on long petioles.

It’s original from the Yunnan province in China where it grows to 2.700 m (8.800′) altitude in under-wood. It’s hardiness is moderate but with some winter cover it should sprout again next spring.

This is a pioneer species: it will be among the first plants to colonise available space after the farmers have harvested a plot. It is used locally as pig food.

Pollination happens thanks to sunbirds and bats. The flower will have peak nectar secretions once at night and once during the day so sunbirds or bats will be attracted when either are most active.

Description:

Musa itinerans has long rhizomes which produce suckers far away from the mother plant.

The pseudostem is yellow-green, purple when older, 5-7 m long with withered leaves.

The petiole is 50-60 cm long. The leaf is green, ovate-oblong, 2.5-3 m long and 70-90 cm wide, rounded at the base and at the tip.

The inflorescence is pendulous and velvety. The bracts of male flowers are yellow at the top, down dark red to purple, often with fur longitudinal yellow stripes and a yellow border. There are 12-16 flowers per bract in two rows.

The bunch has 5-10 clusters of 15-18 fruits per cluster. Bananas are ovoid-cylindrical, 12-14 cm long and 3-3.5 cm wide, white in color. The seeds are numerous, depressed, 3 × 5-7 mm, irregular angular.

Nomenclature:

Common names:

Yunnan Banana, Wild Forest Banana

Etymology:

Musa: from the Greek mousa (banana)
Itinerans: from the Latin iter (road, travel)

Origin:

China (Yunnan province)

Habitat:

Evergreen forests and canyon bottoms, at 1,000-1,300 m altitude



Hardiness:

USDA Zone 8, -10 °C
The trunk and leaves will die but the plant will sprout next spring.

Care:

Soil:

Rich and well drained

Exposure:

Shade or semi-shade, the plant will grow much faster than in a light place

Water:

Water abundantly during growing season

Feed:

Provide fertilizer weekly during growing season

Propagation:

Sowing and suckers

Sowing instructions:

  • sowing seems to be very difficult and germination erratic, it’s probably better to buy a plant
  • if you prefer to sow from seed, apply general recommendations: soak the seed for 1-2 days, maybe scarify the seed and perhaps stratification
  • repot the suckers or seedlings when big enough to handle

Image sources

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