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Musa balbisiana (plantain)

This giant herb is one of the ancestors of the plantain, whose fruits are a staple crop for millions of people throughout the tropics.
Musa balbisiana (plantain) flower

Musa balbisiana (plantain) (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Species information

Scientific name: 

Musa balbisiana

Common name: 

plantain

Conservation status: 

Widespread in cultivation.

Habitat: 

Musa species grow well in warm, humid tropical and subtropical climates. It prefers well-drained, moist soil and can grow on a range of different soil types including sandy, loamy and clay soils.

Key Uses: 

Food, building materials, fibre.

Taxonomy

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

About this species

Musa balbisiana is one of the wild ancestors of the cultivated plantain. Plantain, which is a hybrid between Musa acuminata and Musa balbisiana, is much starchier and less sweet than dessert bananas which are mainly bred from Musa acuminata

Plantains are usually cooked and eaten as a vegetable. They contain high levels of minerals such as phosphorus, calcium and potassium as well as vitamins A and C. Morphologically plantain, like banana, is very different to its wild ancestors. The wild species contains seeds while the cultivars are almost always seedless (parthenocarpic) and are therefore sterile and dependent on vegetative propagation by means of corms. For this reason, they lack genetic diversity and are therefore susceptible to pests and diseases.

Plantains are extremely versatile and, beyond their use as food for humans, they provide shelter, building materials and fibre among other things, and are even used in rituals and religious ceremonies.

Genus: 
Musa

main info

Courses at Kew

Kew offers a variety of specialist training courses in horticulture, conservation and plant science.

Students learn about plant taxonomy and identification

Why People Need Plants

A compelling book from Kew Publishing that explores the crucial role that plants play in the everyday lives of all of us.

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