Musa laterita is a lovely little banana plant with brick-red bracts.
It resembles Musa ornata and can easily hybridize with it but is genetically distinctly different.
There was also confusion with Musa rubra, partly because it seemed that the suckers do not grow as far from the plant but that seems to be due to growing conditions: in pot, the suckers have no place to spread farther away and the plant forms a clump.
According to recent molecular research Musa laterita and Musa rubra are genotypically closely related and likely to be the same species. (SeeNotes on Musa rubra Kurz (Musaceae) and reduction of M. laterita Cheesman as conspecific)
Musa laterita is an evergreen stoloniferous rhizomatous herb, 3-5 suckers appear at 0.5-1.2 m from the mother plant.
The pseudostem is cylindrical, hardly or not at all swollen at the base, 30-220 cm high and 15-20 cm in diameter at the base, slender, light green with black spots or dark red-brown parches, shiny, with watery juice.
The leaves are upright, in a terminal tuft at the top of the stem, the lamina is 90-108 cm long and 25-37 cm wide, oblong, dark green on top with thin brown margin, middle green underneath. Leaf base is symmetrical, narrower at the base on both sides and extended to the petiole, narrower towards the apex, pointed or rounded at the top, with a tendril-like appendage in young stage, midrib light green to yellow-green on top and bottom. Petiole 22-40 cm long, glabrous, with no spots at the base, petiole bases winged, black and brown with thin margins, smooth and clasping the trunk.
The inflorescence is upright, peduncle 15-30 cm long, green, densely covered with short white hairs, grooves not prominent, 1-2 sterile bracts, residual, the first leaf-like with a broadened petiole, brick-red, the following as a real bract linear-lanceolate, brick-red with cream base, 15-19 cm long and 4.5-5.5 cm wide.
The female button is lanceolate, with bracts 12-17 cm long and 6-8 cm wide, red to brick-red with yellow tip, 4-6 hands, 4-8 flowers per bract in 2 rows, orange-yellow petals. The male button is lanceolate, with bracts 12-15 cm long and 6.5 cm wide, red to brick-red with yellow tip, 6-8 flowers per bract in two rows, orange-yellow petals.
The fruitbunch is compact, with 4-6 hands and 4-8 fruits per hand in 2 rows. The fruit is 3.5 to 7 cm long, on a very short stalk, first green and then yellow when ripe, flesh white.
The fruit has 50-60 seeds, 0.6-0.9 cm long and 0.3-0.4 cm wide, spherical, with a smooth surface, brown to black.
Musa: from the Greek moûsa (muse)
Laterita: from the Latin later (brick) and -ite
North-eastern India, Myanmar (Burma) and northern Thailand
In undergrowth and on the slopes of forest edges
USDA zone 8-11
Rich and moist
- soak for 24h in lukewarm water
- sow in moist sowing substrate
- 25-30 °C
- germination: 1 to 6 months