Musa acuminata

Musa acuminata
Musa acuminata
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Plantae
clade: Angiosperms
clade: Monocots
clade: Commelinids
Order: Zingiberales
Family: Musaceae
Genus: Musa
Species: M. acuminata
Binomial name
Musa acuminata
Colla, 1820

See text

Original native ranges of the ancestors of modern edible bananas. M. acuminata is shown in green and M. balbisiana in orange.[1]
  • Musa cavendishii Lamb.
  • Musa chinensis Sweet, nom. nud.
  • Musa corniculata Kurz
  • Musa nana Lour.
  • Musa × sapientum var. suaveolens (Blanco) Malag.
  • Musa rumphiana Kurz
  • Musa simiarum Kurz
  • Musa sinensis Sagot ex Baker
  • And see text

Musa acuminata is a species of wild banana native to Southeast Asia. It is the progenitor of modern edible bananas, along with Musa balbisiana.[3] First cultivated by humans around 8000 years ago, it is one of the earliest examples of domesticated plants.


Taxonomy and nomenclature

Musa acuminata belongs to section Musa (formerly Eumusa) of the genus Musa. It belongs to the family Musaceae of the order Zingiberales.[2] It is divided into several subspecies (see section below).

Musa acuminata was first described by the Italian botanist Luigi Aloysius Colla in the book Memorie della Reale Accademia delle Scienze di Torino (1820).[4][5] Although other authorities have published various names for this species and its hybrids mistaken for different species (notably Musa sapientum by Linnaeus which is now known to be a hybrid of Musa acuminata and Musa balbisiana), Colla's publication is the oldest name for the species and thus has precedence over the others from the rules of the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature.[6] Colla also was the first authority to recognize that both Musa acuminata and Musa balbisiana were wild ancestral species, even though the specimen he described was a naturally occurring seedless polyploid like cultivated bananas.[5]


Musa acuminata are perennial herbs (not trees). The trunk (known as the pseudostem) is made of tightly packed layers of leaf sheaths emerging from completely or partially buried corms.[7]

The inflorescence of Musa acuminata grows horizontally or obliquely from the trunk. The individual flowers are white to yellowish-white in color and are negatively geotropic (that is, growing upwards and away from the ground).[7][8] Both male and female flowers are present in a single inflorescence. Female flowers located near the base (and develop into fruit), and the male flowers located at the tipmost top-shaped bud in between leathery bracts.[7]

The rather slender fruits are berries, the size of each depends on the number of seeds they contain. Each fruit can have 15 to 62 seeds.[9] Each fruit bunch can have an average of 161.76 ± 60.62 fingers with each finger around 2.4 cm (0.94 in) by 9 cm (3.5 in) in size.[10]

The seeds of Musa acuminata are around 5 to 6 mm (0.20 to 0.24 in) in diamater.[7] They are subglobose or angular in shape and very hard. The tiny embryo is located at the end of the micropyle.[9] Each seed of Musa acuminata typically produce around four times its size in edible starchy pulp (the parenchyma, the portion of the bananas we eat), around 0.23 cm3 (0.014 cu in).[11][7] The ratio increases dramatically for the 'seedless' modern edible cultivars. The much reduced in size and sterile seeds are now surrounded by 23 times its size in edible pulp.[11] The seeds themselves are reduced to tiny black specks along the central axis of the fruit.[7]


Musa acuminata are propagated sexually by seeds or asexually by suckers in the wild. Edible parthenocarpic cultivars are usually cultivated by suckers in plantations or cloned by tissue culture.[12] Seeds are also still used in research for developing new cultivars.[9]

Musa acuminata is a pioneer species. They rapidly exploit newly disturbed areas, like areas recently subjected to forest fires. They are also considered a 'keystone species' in certain ecosystems, paving the way for greater wildlife diversity once they have established themselves in an area. They are particularly important as a food source for wildlife due to their rapid regeneration.[10]

Musa acuminata bears flowers that by their very structure, makes it difficult to self-pollinate. It takes about four months for the flower to develop in the fruits, with the fruit clusters at the bases ripening sooner than those at the tip.[10]

A large variety of wildlife feed on the fruits. These include frugivorous bats, birds, squirrels, tree shrews, civets, rats, mice, monkeys, and apes.[10] These animals are also important for seed dispersal.[13]

Mature seeds germinate readily 2 to 3 weeks after sowing.[12] They can remain viable from a few months to two years of storage.[9] Nevertheless, studies show that clone seedlings are much more likely to survive than seedlings germinated from seeds.[10]


Musa acuminata is native to the biogeographical region of Malesia and most of mainland Indochina. Malesia (not to be confused with Malaysia, one of its components) is an area extending from Papua New Guinea and Northern Australia in the southeast; Sumatra, Indonesia in the west; and Luzon island of the Philippines in the north.[14]

Musa acuminata favors wet tropical climates in contrast to the hardier Musa balbisiana, the species it hybridized extensively with to provide almost all modern cultivars of edible bananas.[15] Subsequent spread of the species outside of its native region is thought to be purely the result of human intervention.[16] Early farmers introduced M. acuminata into the native range of M. balbisiana resulting in hybridization and the development of modern edible clones.[17]

AAB cultivars were spread from somewhere around the Philippines 4000 years ago and resulted in the distinct banana cultivars known as the Maia Maoli or Popoulo group bananas in the Pacific islands. They may have been introduced as well to South America during Precolumbian times from contact with early Polynesian sailors, although evidence of this is debatable.[16]

Westward spread included Africa which already had evidence of Musa acuminata × Musa balbisiana hybrid cultivation from as early as 1000 to 400 BC.[16] They were probably introduced first to Madagascar from Indonesia.[17]

From West Africa, they were introduced to the Canary islands by the Portuguese in the 16th century, and from there were introduced to Hispaniola (modern Haiti) in 1516.[17]


In 1955, Norman Simmonds and Ken Shepherd revised the classification of modern edible bananas based on their genetic origins. Their classification depends on how many of the characteristics of the two ancestral species (Musa acuminata and Musa balbisiana) are exhibited by the cultivars.[6] Most banana cultivars which exhibit purely or mostly Musa acuminata genomes are dessert bananas, while hybrids of M. acuminata and M. balbisiana are mostly cooking bananas or plantains.[18]

Musa acuminata is one of the earliest plants to be domesticated by humans for agriculture. They were first domesticated in Southeast Asia and surrounding areas (possibly New Guinea, eastern Indonesia, and the Philippines) at around 8000 B.C. It has been suggested that M. acuminata may have originally been domesticated for parts other than the fruit. Either for fiber, for construction materials, or for its edible male bud.[19] They were selected early for parthenocarpy and seed sterility in their fruits, a process that might have taken thousands of years. This initially lead to the first 'human-edible' banana diploid clones (modern AA cultivars). Diploid clones are still able to produce viable seeds when pollinated by wild species. This resulted in the development of Triploid clones which were conserved for their larger fruit.[1]

M. acuminata were later introduced into mainland Indochina into the range of another ancestral wild banana species - Musa balbisiana, a hardier species of lesser genetic diversity than M. acuminata. Hybridization between the two resulted in drought-resistant edible cultivars. Modern edible banana and plantain cultivars are derived from permutations of hybridization and polyploidy of the two.[1]


Musa acuminata is highly variable and the number of subspecies accepted can vary from six to nine between different authorities. The following are the most commonly accepted subspecies:[14]

  • Musa acuminata subsp. burmannica Simmonds
= Musa acuminata subsp. burmannicoides De Langhe
Found in Burma, southern India, and Sri Lanka.
  • Musa acuminata subsp. errans Argent
= Musa errans Teodoro, Musa troglodyatarum L. var. errans, Musa errans Teodoro var. botoan
Known as Fleur de banane des Philippines in French and saging matsing and saging chonggo (both meaning 'monkey banana'),[20][21] saging na ligao ('wild banana'), and agutay in the Filipino. Found in the Philippines. It is a significant maternal ancestor of many modern dessert bananas (AA and AAA groups). It is an attractive subspecies with blue-violet inflorescence and very pale green unripe fruits.
  • Musa acuminata subsp. malaccensis (Ridley) Simmonds
= Musa malaccensis Ridley
Found in peninsular Malaysia and Sumatra. It is the paternal parent of the latundan banana.
  • Musa acuminata subsp. microcarpa (Beccari) Simmonds
= Musa microcarpa Beccari
Found in Borneo. It is the ancestor of the cultivar 'Viente Cohol'
  • Musa acuminata subsp. siamea Simmonds
Found in Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand.
Commonly known as blood bananas. Native to Java. It is cultivated as an ornamental plant for the dark red patches of color on their predominantly dark green leaves. They have very slender pseudostems with fruits containing seeds like that of grapes. It is one of the earliest bananas spread eastwards to the Pacific and westward towards Africa where it became the paternal parent of the East African Highland bananas (the Mutika/Lujugira subgroup of the AAA group). In Hawaii it is known as the Mai'a 'Oa', and is of cultural and folk medicinal significance as the only seeded bananas to be introduced to the islands before European contact.[14]

See also


  1. ^ a b c Edmond de Langhe & Pierre de Maret (2004). "Tracking the banana: its significance in early agriculture". In Jon G. Hather. The Prehistory of Food: Appetites for Change. Routledge. p. 372. ISBN 9780203203385. 
  2. ^ a b "Musa acuminata Colla, 1820". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN) online database. Retrieved June 5, 2011. 
  3. ^ Genetic Diversity of the Wild Banana Musa acuminata Colla in Malaysia as Evidenced by AFLP, by Carol Wong, Ruth Kiew, Jin Phang Loh, Leong Huat Gan, Ohn Set, Sing Kong Lee, Shawn Lum and Yik Yuen Gan
  4. ^ "Musa paradisiaca". 
  5. ^ a b Deborah A. Karamura (1999). Numerical taxonomic studies of the East African Highland bananas (Musa AAA-East Africa) in Uganda. Bioversity International. p. 18. ISBN 9782910810313. 
  6. ^ a b A.B. Molina & V.N. Roa (2000). Advancing Banana and Plantain R and D in Asia and the Pacific. International Network for the Improvement of Banana and Plantain - Asia and Pacific Network (INIBAP-ASPNET) & the International Plant Genetic Resources Institute (IPGRI). p. 57. ISBN 9789719175131. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f N.W. Simmonds (1962). "Where our bananas come from". New Scientist (Reed Business Information) 16 (307): 36 – 39. ISSN 0262-4079. Retrieved June 11, 2011. 
  8. ^ Markku Häkkinen & Edmond De Langhe (2001). Musa acuminata in Northern Borneo. International Network for the Improvement of Banana and Plantain (INIBAP). Retrieved June 11, 2011. 
  9. ^ a b c d S. D. Doijode (2001). Seed storage of horticultural crops. Routledge. pp. 69 – 71. ISBN 9781560229018. 
  10. ^ a b c d e Dokrak Marod, Piya Pinyo, Prateep Duengkae, & Tanaka Hiroshi (2010). "The Role of Wild Banana (Musa acuminata Colla) on Wildlife Diversity in Mixed Deciduous Forest, Kanchanaburi Province, Western Thailand". Kasetsart J. (Nat. Sci.) (Kasetart University) 44 (1): 35 – 43. Retrieved June 6, 2011. 
  11. ^ a b Michael Pillay & Abdou Tenkouano (2011). Banana Breeding and Production. CRC Press. ISBN 9781439800171. 
  12. ^ a b Hean Chooi Ong (2008). Vegetables for Health and Healing. Utusan Publications. p. 38. ISBN 9789676121028. 
  13. ^ Zhanhui Tang, Lianxi Sheng, Xunfeng Ma, Min Cao, Stuart Parsons, Jie Ma, & Shuyi Zhang (2007). "Temporal and spatial patterns of seed dispersal of Musa acuminata by Cynopterus sphinx". Acta Chiropterologica (Museum and Institute of Zoology, Polish Academy of Sciences) 9 (1): 229 – 235. ISSN 1508-1109. Retrieved June 6, 2011. 
  14. ^ a b c Randy C. Ploetz, Angela Kay Kepler, Jeff Daniells, & Scot C. Nelson (2007). "Banana and plantain — an overview with emphasis on the Pacific island cultivars". Species Profiles for Pacific Island Agroforestry (Traditional Tree Initiative). Retrieved June 5, 2011. 
  15. ^ Noël Kingsbury (2009). Hybrid: the history and science of plant breeding. University of Chicago Press. p. 31 – 32. ISBN 9780226437040. 
  16. ^ a b c Jeffrey William Daniells & Suzanne L. Sharrock (2001). Musalogue, a catalogue of Musa germplasm: diversity in the genus Musa. Bioversity International. ISBN 9782910810429. 
  17. ^ a b c A. T. G. Elzebroek & Koop Wind (2001). Guide to cultivated plants. CABI. pp. 35 – 38. ISBN 9781845933562. 
  18. ^ R.V. Valmayor (2000). "Cooking bananas - Classification, production and utilization in South-East Asia". Infomusa (International Network for the Improvement of Banana and Plantain) 9 (1): 28 – 30. ISSN 1023-0076. Retrieved June 5, 2011. 
  19. ^ Suzanne Sharrok & Emile Frison (1998). "Musa production around the world - trends, varieties and regional importance". Networking Banana and Plantain. International Network for the Improvement of Banana and Plantain (INIBAP) & Bioversity International. pp. 42–47. Retrieved July 23, 2011. 
  20. ^ "Progenitors of Edible Bananas". Guide to Growing Bananas. November 1, 2010. Retrieved January 12, 2011. 
  21. ^ "Progenitors of Edible Bananas". Guide to Growing Bananas. November 1, 2010. Retrieved January 12, 2011. 

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