Gros Michel banana

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Musa acuminata 'Gros Michel'
Species Musa acuminata
Cultivar group AAA Group
Cultivar 'Gros Michel'
Origin Martinique, Jamaica[1]

Gros Michel, often known as Big Mike, is an export cultivar of banana and was, until the 1950s, the main variety imported to the United States.[2]


Gros Michel is a triploid cultivar of the wild banana Musa acuminata, belonging to the AAA group.[3]

Its official designation is Musa acuminata (AAA Group) 'Gros Michel'.

Synonyms include:

  • Musa acuminata L. cv. 'Gros Michel'
  • Musa × paradisiaca L. cv. 'Gros Michel'

Gros Michel is known as Guineo Gigante, Banano, and Plátano Roatán in Spanish. It is also known as Pisang Ambon in Malaysia and Indonesia, Thihmwe in Burma, and Kluai hom thong in Thailand.[3]


French naturalist Nicolas Baudin carried a few corms of this banana from Southeast Asia, depositing them at a botanical garden on the Caribbean island of Martinique. In 1835, French botanist Jean François Pouyat carried Baudin's fruit from Martinique to Jamaica.[4]

In the 1950s, Panama disease, a wilt caused by the fungus Fusarium oxysporum, wiped out vast tracts of ‘Gros Michel’ plantations in South America and Africa, but the cultivar survived in Thailand.

By 1960, the major importers of Gros Michel bananas were nearly bankrupt, and had waited to deal with the financial and environmental crisis. The Cavendish was cultivated so consumers would still be able to obtain bananas.[2]

The international name of this banana variety is ‘Gros Michel’ (Musa acuminata AAA). This variety was once the dominant export banana to Europe and North America, grown in South America and Africa. After the banana catastrophe, South American and African plantations switched to the resistant Cavendish banana subgroup (another Musa acuminata AAA). The clone ‘Dwarf Cavendish’, today’s food banana in the west, has a different flavour, a different morphology (‘Gros Michel’ is slimmer), and unlike ‘Gros Michel,’ they do not turn fully yellow in tropical lowlands. A ‘Gros Michel’ plant can reach 7 m tall, but a ‘Dwarf Cavendish’ plant only reaches about 2 m tall. A Malaysian variety within the Cavendish subgroup sometimes found in Thailand is ‘Gluay hom kiao’.

The original 'Gros Michel' variety is a top export for producing countries in Malaysia and Thailand, with the grade A bananas being exported to Japan, and increasingly to China.[citation needed]

Regarding its flavour, the 'Gros Michel' is said to resemble more closely the artificial banana flavour used in the food industry. The notion that artificial banana flavour tastes particularly fake is at least partially rooted in the differing taste of the now much more widely available Cavendish cultivar.[5]


The Honduras Foundation for Agricultural Research cultivates several varieties of the Gros Michel. They have succeeded in producing a few seeds by hand-pollinating the flowers with pollen from diploid bananas, which easily make fertile pollen and ovules. Meiosis in a triploid banana nearly always makes a non-viable mess; only rarely does the first stage of meiosis tidily fail completely, causing a euploid triploid ovule, which when pollinated from a diploid banana produces a tetraploid offspring; but tetraploids often produce euploid diploid pollen and ovules and thus regularly contain seeds, and the mass market for bananas is not ready for bananas with seeds.[6]

Cultural references[edit]

"Yes! We Have No Bananas", a novelty song from the 1922 Broadway revue Make It Snappy, is said to have been inspired by a shortage of Gros Michel bananas, which began with the infestation of Panama disease early in the 20th century.[7][dead link]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Robert J. Lancashire (25 August 2006). "Jamaican bananas and plantains". The Department of Chemistry, University of the West Indies. Retrieved 11 January 2011. 
  2. ^ a b Koeppel, Dan (2008-06-18). "Yes, We Will Have No Bananas" (Editorial). New York Times. Retrieved 2008-06-18. 
  3. ^ a b Michel H. Porcher; Prof. Snow Barlow (2002-07-19). "Sorting Musa names". The University of Melbourne, [1]. Retrieved 11 January 2011.  External link in |publisher= (help)
  4. ^ Dan Koeppel (2008). Banana: the fate of the fruit that changed the world. Hudson Street Press. p. 33. ISBN 1-4295-9325-3. 
  5. ^ Chris Baraniuk (2014). "The Secret of fake flavours". BBC. Retrieved 2015-09-29. 
  6. ^ Carla Helfferich (1990). "Battling for Bananas". Alaska Science Forum. Retrieved 2008-06-02. 
  7. ^ Koeppel, Dan (19 June 2005). "Can This Fruit Be Saved?". Retrieved 2008-06-22.