Types of Bananas
The banana family includes the classic commercial banana, which is most likely to look like a “banana tree.” In addition, plantains – bananas that are cooked and eaten like potatoes – may grow on tree-like plants. However, many bananas grown for their ornamental value look more shrub-like. A few are actually only two or three feet tall and make good container plants.
Where Do Bananas Grow?
Although the supermarket variety of banana is a true tropical plant, other varieties are more widely adapted. Most prefer the warmer end of the temperate climate scale, and can be grown outdoors in USDA Zones 8 to 11. All bananas are very sensitive to frost, however, and must be protected if night-time temperatures drop much below 50°F (10°C).
This is a small sample of edible banana varieties:
- Candy Apple Bananas – grown in Hawaii.
- Cavendish or Williams – the supermarket variety; grown in India, China, Brazil and Ecuador.
- Pisang Raja or Musa Belle – popular in Indonesia.
- Plantains – a group of bananas that must be cooked. Grown in the southern US.
- Burro Banana – grown in Mexico.
The banana plant grows from a round knobby structure called a corm. Roots grow down from the corm and a central stalk, or pseudostem, is the “tree trunk.” The leaf stalks of a banana are tightly packed together to form the pseudostem. This pseudostem is what supports the plant. It develops a flower head known as an inflorescence, from which the bananas develop.
How Bananas Grow
Initially, a corm concentrates on producing new leaves. Eventually the plant becomes mature, at which point the plant directs energy into the development of a flower spike, or inflorescence. The inflorescence is also known as the “banana heart.” The flower spike develops inside the pseudostem and erupts from the top, producing multiple flower heads that develop individual fruits.
Each inflorescence contains many bracts, which look like petals. The actual flowers develop higher up the stem. The plant produces both male and female flowers. Banana fruits develop from the banana heart itself, in a large hanging cluster of tiers. The plant may have up to 20 fruits per tier. A banana bunch may have anywhere from three to 20 tiers.