Ensete superbum

Ensete superbum

Ensete superbum or Cliff Banana is native of northern India.

It dies back in winter or dry season and resumes next spring from the corm.

Remarkably, when Ensete superbum grows on barren land, it goes through a life cycle of four years but in humid conditions it is evergreen and has a life cycle of only three years.

Ensete superbum is still not widely traded and it might take some searching to find seeds but it is a very easy to grow and quite frost resistant which makes the effort worthwhile.

Description:

Ensete superbum is characterized by a swollen pseudostem, 2.5 m circumference at the base which narrows higher up to 1 m circumference. The trunk is about 2 m high. It does not produce suckers.

The leaves are bright green on both sides with a short, red and deeply grooved petiole. They are on average 150 cm long and 40-50 cm wide. The leaf sheaths are persistant and leave closely set scars in the corm.

Inflorescence is first spherical, about 30 cm long, later drooping, up 1/3 of the length of the pseudo-stem. The bracts are round, dark brown-red, 1 m long and broad, dense rows with each 10 to 15 flowers. The outer perianth is whitish, the inner perianth is shorter than the outer.

The fruit is 15 cm long and roughly triangular in section with dark brown spherical seeds. They are edible. Excessive harvesting and destruction of immature fruit by monkeys threaten the species in its habitat.

Usage:

  • Ornamental
  • Medicinal: fruit and seed are used in the Ayurveda to treat diabetes, leucorrhea, kidney stones, bladder infections…

Nomenclature:

Common names:

Cliff Banana, Rock Banana

Synonym:

Musa superba

Etymology:

Ensete: the local Abissinian name
Superbum: from the Latin superbus (elevated, high)

Origin:

India: West Ghats, Assam, Rajasthan



Habitat:

Limestone cliffs, on edges or in crevices

Hardiness:

USDA zone 10-11

Ensete superbum inflorescence

Ensete superbum inflorescence

Care:

Soil:

Nutritious and well drained

Exposure:

Sun

Water:

Needs plenty of water during growing season

Feed:

Fertilize weekly during growing season

Propagation:

Only by seed, does not produce suckers.
NB: suckering can be induced artificially by digging up a corm, making a hole in the center, filling this whole with soil and replanting it. But this is at the expense of a mature plant.

Sowing instructions:

  • soak the seeds 1-2 days
  • sow in moist substrate
  • warm during the day, cooler at night temperature variations help germination
  • germination: 2-4 weeks

Image sources

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