A noteworthy banana: Musa balbisiana

The Musa balbisiana is a wild banana species and is one of the two ancestors of virtually all modern commercially cultivated bananas (the other one being Musa acuminata). This wild banana species is native to the drier areas of Southeast-Asia, while the Musa acuminate has evolved in the wetter tropical areas. Musa balbisiana may have adopted to drier regions but it does grow perfectly in tropical and subtropical forests of the Philippines, Thailand, New Guinea, India, south China, Malaysia, Burma, Indonesia, and some other countries.
[Musa balbisiana in Kew Gardens]
Like all other bananas, Musa balbisiana is a herb and it grows with lush leaves in clumps and grows with a more upright habit than most cultivated bananas. Flowers grow in clusters with attractive colours that range from red to maroon. The fruit itself is rather small and is blue-ish green or greenish blue in colour. They are considered inedible because of the many pea-sized seeds they contain. However, it is assumed that wild bananas were used to be cooked and consumed in the remote past because otherwise early farmers would not have developed the cultivated wild banana.
[Foto: Warut Roonguthai]
Research[1] suggests that significant genetic differentiation exists among populations of Musa balbisiana in China which may be helpful in finding genes that help combat Panama disease and black Sigatoka.

[1] Ge et al: Population structure of wild bananas, Musa balbisiana, in China determined by SSR fingerprinting and cpDNA PCR-RFLP in Molecular Ecology - 2005

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