Saturday, October 9, 2010
Several types of bananas grow behind the tropical house at the UC Botanical Garden. Some in the genus Musa. And at least one labeled Eusete. That genus is not listed in Hortus Third. I do find the red banana, Ensete maurelli, on the web. Perhaps the plant is mislabeled.
Bananas are one of the few fruits that will ripen without being pollinated. Those that are pollinated develop large seeds with make them difficult to eat. The flowers hang in a huge inflorescence. An old one is in the second picture. The flowers mature row by row, each row covered by large bracts before it is ready. Then the bananas hang in rows, pointing upwards.
We think it as a "banana tree," but if you look, you will notice that the "trunk" is made up of the leaf bases. So it has no woody trunk, and is not really a tree.
Other parts of the plant are also used by humans. The banana leaves are used as plates or to wrap food for grilling in some areas, especially in the southern portion of India. The fiber is used for textiles, especially in Japan. The plant can also be used to make paper. The sap can be used as glue.
Remember the song, "Mellow Yellow" by Donovan? It came out just three weeks after Country Joe McDonald declared that he got high smoking banana skins. This accidental synchrony probably helped both their careers and the belief that bananas are intoxicating. However, if you listen carefully to the words, you'll find that the song is about sex not drugs. And Country Joe was dropping acid at the same time that he was smoking banana peels, so he was confused about what caused him to feel different. I guess you don't think straight when you have acid in your system. Funny thing, though, the morning after Country Joe announced at a concert how effective bananas are, the fruit disappeared from grocery stores. So many disappointed hippies!