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Ensete ventricosum (Ethiopian banana)

A staple food crop in its native Ethiopia, the Ethiopian banana is also a popular ornamental giving gardens a lush tropical effect with its large decorative leaves and striking purple midrib.
Ethiopian banana leaves

Ensete ventricosum (Photo: Forest & Kim Starr)

Species information

Scientific name: 

Ensete ventricosum (Welw.) Cheesman

Common name: 

Ethiopian banana, Abyssinian banana, enset

Conservation status: 

Not yet assessed according to IUCN Red List criteria.

Habitat: 

Swamp margins, river banks and open, moist mountain forests.

Key Uses: 

Food (leaves, stem, seeds). Ornamental.

Known hazards: 

None known.

Taxonomy

Subclass: 
Superorder: 
Lilianae
Order: 
Zingiberales
Family: 
Musaceae
Genus: Ensete

About this species

The Ethiopian banana is a close relative of the dessert banana (cultivars of Musa acuminata). However, as much as it looks like a 'regular' banana plant, the Ethiopian banana is not cultivated for its fruits, but rather for its vegetative parts. In southern and south-western Ethiopia, the starch-rich pseudostems and underground rhizomes serve millions of people as a staple food, similar to potatoes elsewhere. In tropical and subtropical gardens the Ethiopian banana is a popular ornamental, producing very large 'banana leaves' marked by a conspicuous purple to purplish-brown midrib. A spectacular architectural plant, in Britain this species can be grown in containers to afford temperate gardens a tropical flair in summer.

Synonym: 

Ensete edule, Musa ensete

Genus: 
Ensete

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