An unknown cultivar from Oman

The Umq Bi’r oasis is known for its abundant fresh water and terraces of date palms with an understory of citrus and bananas. It lies almost forgotten in the upper part of the Wadi Tiwi in northeastern Oman. While they are now mostly abandoned, in the course of two visits in 2003 and 2004, six banana suckers were collected and taken to the University of Kassel, in Germany, where they were then grown in greenhouses.

All the plants turned out to be drought-tolerant Musa acuminata x Musa balbisiana hybrids typical of the Middle East, except for one specimen that survived in a limestone rock niche.

The scientists draw attention to the shape of the male bud, which is plump and rounded with extremely imbricated bracts early on and becomes slender and lanceolate as the fruits mature, a feature they say has never been described before.
[Image: Andreas. Buerkert]
Research[1] allowed the authors to classify the variety as a previously unknown Musa acuminata hybrid. Since acuminata bananas are normally quite sensitive to drought spells, characteristic for the Arabian Peninsula, the occurrence of this specimen provides further evidence for Oman’s role as a refuge of relict crops imported from a more humid region such as coastal East Africa and nearby islands or Indonesia.

Bananas, though they have no wild relatives in Oman, show an astonishing variation[2]. Some clones likely reflecting old trade relationships to Southeast Asia where they may now have become extinct, being new to science. Obviously many different races have been introduced and maintained over the centuries.

The authors speculate that the mystery variety, which they named Umq Bi’r, might have reached Oman many centuries ago via Zanzibar, Madagascar or the Comoros.

[1] Buerkert et al: Ecology and morphological traits of an ancient Musa acuminata cultivar from a mountain oasis of Oman in Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution - 2009
[2] Oases of Oman: Livelyhood Systems at the Crossroads: Eds. Buerbert & Schlecht - 2010

No comments:

Post a Comment