List of banana cultivars

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Photo of four several large green, smaller red, very small yellow, and medium-sized yellow bananas
Left to right: plantains, Red, Latundan, and Cavendish bananas

The following is a list of banana cultivars and the groups into which they are classified. Almost all modern cultivated varieties (cultivars) of edible bananas and plantains are hybrids and polyploids of two wild, seeded banana species, Musa acuminata and Musa balbisiana. Cultivated bananas are almost always seedless (parthenocarpic) and hence sterile, so they are propagated vegetatively (cloned). They are classified into groups according to a genome-based system introduced by Ernest Cheesman, Norman Simmonds, and Ken Shepherd, which indicates the degree of genetic inheritance from the two wild parents and the number of chromosomes (ploidy). Cultivars derived from Musa acuminata are more likely to be used as dessert bananas, while those derived from Musa balbisiana and hybrids of the two are usually plantains or cooking bananas.[1][2]

Classification of cultivars[edit]

Banana plants were originally classified by Linnaeus into two species, which he called Musa paradisiaca – those used as cooking bananas (plantains), and M. sapientum – those used as dessert bananas. The primary center of diversity of cultivated bananas is Southeast Asia. Botanical exploration of this area led to many more species being named, along with subspecies and varieties. However, this approach proved inadequate to deal with the large number of cultivated varieties (cultivars) which were discovered, and many of the names later proved to be synonyms.[1] Furthermore, it was discovered that most cultivated bananas are actually hybrids between two wild species, M. acuminata and M. balbisiana, both first described in 1820 by the Italian botanist Luigi Aloysius Colla,[3] and that Linnaeus' two "species" were both this hybrid, which is now called M. × paradisiaca.[4] Unlike the wild species, which have seeds, cultivated bananas are almost always seedless (parthenocarpic) and hence sterile, so they have to be propagated vegetatively.

In 1955, researchers Norman Simmonds and Ken Shepherd proposed abandoning traditional Latin-based botanical names for cultivated bananas.[2] This approach foreshadowed the International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants which, in addition to using Latin names based on the International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants, gives cultivars names in a currently spoken language, enclosed in single quotes, and organizes them into "cultivar groups", also not given Latin names.[5]

Banana cultivars derived from M. acuminata and M. balbisiana can be classified into cultivar groups using two criteria. The first is the number of chromosomes: whether the plant is diploid, triploid or tetraploid. The second is relationship to the two ancestral species, which may be determined by genetic analysis or by a scoring system devised by Simmonds and Shepherd. A cultivar is scored on 15 characters, chosen because they differ between the two species. Each character is given a score between one and five according to whether it is typical of M. acuminata or of M. babisiana or is in between. Thus the total score for a cultivar will range from 15 if all characters agree with M. acuminata to 75 if all characters agree with M. balbisiana. Intermediate scores suggest mixed ancestry: for example, 45 would be expected for diploids with equal genetic contributions from both species.[6]

Groups are then named using a combination of the letters "A" and "B". The number of letters shows the ploidy; the proportion of As and Bs the contributions of the ancestral species. The AAB Group, for example, comprises triploid cultivars with more genetic inheritance from M. acuminata than M. balbisiana. A character score of around 35 is expected for members of this group. Within groups, cultivars may be divided into subgroups and then given a cultivar name, e.g. Musa AAA Group (Cavendish Subgroup) 'Robusta'.[6]

Characters used to classify banana cultivars derived from M. acuminata and M. balbisiana[6]
Character M. acuminata M. balbisiana
Color of pseudostem Black or grey-brown spots Unmarked or slightly marked
Petiole canal Erect edge, with scarred inferior leaves, not against the pseudostem Closed edge, without leaves, against the pseudostem
Stalk Covered with fine hair Smooth
Pedicels Short Long
Ovum Two regular rows in the locule Four irregular rows in the locule
Elbow of the bract Tall (< 0.28) Short (> 0.30)
Bend of the bract The bract wraps behind the opening The bract raises without bending behind the opening
Form of the bract Lance- or egg-shaped, tapering markedly after the bend Broadly egg-shaped
Peak of the bract Acute Obtuse
Color of the bract Dark red or yellow on the outside, opaque purple or yellow on the inside Brown-purple on the outside, crimson on the inside
Discoloration The inside of the bract is more bright toward the base The inside of the bract is uniform
Scarification of the bract Prominent Not prominent
Free tepal of the male flower Corrugated under the point Rarely corrugated
Color of the male flower White or cream Pink
Color of the markings Orange or bright yellow Cream, yellow, or pale pink

In practice, the scoring system and the associated grouping is not as straightforward as the Simmonds and Shepherd naming system implies. For example, a member of the AAB Group should have a score about one third of the way between M. acuminata and M. balbisiana (i.e. about 35) if one third of its chromosomes come from M. balbisiana. However, the cultivars 'Silk' and 'Pome', both classified in the AAB Group, scored 26 and 46 respectively. The cultivar 'Pelipita' is placed in the ABB group, so should have 11 of its 33 chromosomes derived from M. acuminata. However, a technique called "genomic in situ hybridization" (GISH) showed that actually only 8 chromosomes were of this origin. Other lines of evidence suggest a more complex genome structure is present in other banana cultivars, so the group names should not be taken at face value.[7]


The total number of cultivars of bananas and plantains has been estimated to be anything from around 300 to more than 1000. Names are highly confused, even within a single country. Many common names do not refer to a single cultivar or clone; for example 'Lady's Finger' or 'Lady Finger' has been used as the name for members of different genome groups, including AA and AAB. Many other names are synonyms of cultivars grown in the same or different countries.[8] Attempts have been made to create lists of synonyms. In 2000, Valmayor et al. listed equivalent local names for 68 cultivars across five Southeast Asian countries (the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam), together with their internationally used names. They considered a further 81 cultivars to be unique to one country.[1] In 2007, Ploetz et al. listed more cultivar names and synonyms, with an emphasis on those grown in the islands of the Pacific, but including some grown in areas such as India, Africa and South America. As an example, for the widely grown cultivar 'Dwarf Cavendish', they gave 58 synonyms from 29 countries or geographical areas.[8] ProMusa has created a checklist of banana cultivar names based on available literature.[9]

A recent development is the use of "somaclones" in banana cultivation. Micropropagation involves growing plants from very small amounts of source tissue, sometimes even a single cell, under sterile conditions using artificial techniques to induce growth from mitochondrial relief systems. The purpose of micropropagation is often to produce a large number of genetically identical offspring in the manner of Shannon et al. However, by inducing mutations through various means, it is possible to produce plants which differ slightly from the "parent" plant and from each other ("somaclonal variations"). By growing on these somaclones and selecting those with desirable features, new cultivars can be produced which are very similar to an existing cultivar, but differ in one or two features, such as disease resistance. Somaclones may only be distinguishable by genetic analysis.[10]

Musa section[edit]

Musa × paradisiaca is the name for hybrids between Musa acuminata (A) and Musa balbisiana (B), both in Musa section Musa.

AA Group[edit]

Diploid Musa acuminata, both wild banana plants and cultivars

AAA Group[edit]

Triploid Musa acuminata, both wild banana plants and cultivars

AAAA Group[edit]

Tetraploid Musa acuminata, both wild bananas and cultivars

AAAB Group[edit]

Tetraploid cultivars of Musa × paradisiaca

AAB Group[edit]

Triploid cultivars of Musa × paradisiaca. This group contains the Plantain subgroup, composed of "true" plantains or African Plantains. The AAB Group's centre of diversity is Central and West Africa, where a large number of cultivars were domesticated following the introduction of ancestral Plantains from Asia, possibly 2000–3000 years ago.[15]

The Iholena and Maoli-Popo'ulu subgroups are referred to as Pacific plantains.[8]

AABB Group[edit]

Tetraploid cultivars of Musa × paradisiaca

AB Group[edit]

Diploid cultivars of Musa × paradisiaca

ABB Group[edit]

Triploid cultivars of Musa × paradisiaca

  • Bluggoe Subgroup
  • Saba Subgroup
  • Others
  • Blue Java (Ice Cream banana, Ney mannan, Ash plantain, Pata hina, Dukuru, Vata)

ABBB Group[edit]

Tetraploid cultivars of Musa × paradisiaca

BB Group[edit]

Diploid Musa balbisiana, wild bananas

Callimusa section[edit]

Cultivars of Musa lolodensis, Musa maclayi and Musa peekelii belong in Musa section Callimusa.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Valmayor, Ramón V.; Jamaluddin, S.H.; Silayoi, B.; Kusumo, S.; Danh, L.D.; Pascua, O.C. & Espino, R.R.C. (2000). Banana cultivar names and synonyms in Southeast Asia (PDF). Los Baños, Philippines: International Network for Improvement of Banana and Plantain – Asia and the Pacific Office. pp. 2, 14. ISBN 978-971-91751-2-4. Retrieved 2013-01-08.
  2. ^ a b Porcher, Michel H. "Sorting Musa names". The University of Melbourne. Retrieved 2013-01-08.
  3. ^ Borborah, Kongkona; Borthakur, S. K.; Tanti, Bhaben (23 June 2016). "A new variety of Musa balbisiana Colla from Assam, India". Bangladesh Journal of Plant Taxonomy. 23 (1): 75–78. doi:10.3329/bjpt.v23i1.28348. ISSN 2224-7297.
  4. ^ "Musa paradisiaca". World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Retrieved 2013-01-06.
  5. ^ Brickell, C.D. (2009). "International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants" (PDF). Scripta Horticulturae. 10 (8th ed.). International Society of Horticultural Science: 35. ISBN 978-0-643-09440-6. Retrieved 2013-01-08.
  6. ^ a b c "Nomenclature of cultivated bananas". ProMusa. 17 July 2020. Retrieved 2024-04-06.
  7. ^ De Langhe, Edmond; Hřibová, Eva; Carpentier, Sebastien; Doležel, Jaroslav & Swennen, Rony (2010). "Did backcrossing contribute to the origin of hybrid edible bananas?". Annals of Botany. 106 (6): 849–857. doi:10.1093/aob/mcq187. PMC 2990659. PMID 20858591.
  8. ^ a b c d Ploetz, R.C.; Kepler, A.K.; Daniells, J. & Nelson, S.C. (2007). "Banana and Plantain: An Overview with Emphasis on Pacific Island Cultivars" (PDF). In Elevitch, C.R (ed.). Species Profiles for Pacific Island Agroforestry. Hōlualoa, Hawai'i: Permanent Agriculture Resources (PAR). Retrieved 2013-01-10.
  9. ^ "Banana cultivar checklist". ProMusa. 2 June 2021. Retrieved 2024-04-06.
  10. ^ Bidabadi, Siamak Shirani; Meon, Sariah; Wahab, Zakaria & Mahmood, Maziah (2010). "Study of Genetic and Phenotypic Variability among Somaclones Induced by BAP and TDZ in Micropropagated Shoot Tips of Banana (Musa spp.) Using RAPD Markers". Journal of Agricultural Science. 2 (3): 49–60. doi:10.5539/jas.v2n3P49.
  11. ^ Cruz, F. S. de la; Gueco, L. S.; Damasco, O. P.; Huelgas, V. C.; Cueva, F. M. de la; Dizon, T. O.; Sison, M. L. J.; Banasihan, I. G.; Sinohin, V. G. O. (2008). Farmer's handbook on introduced and local banana cultivars in the Philippines. Rome, Italia: Bioversity International. p. 54. ISBN 978-971-91751-8-6.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: date and year (link)
  12. ^ a b c d e f g Molina, A.B.; Roa, V.N. (2000). Advancing Banana and Plantain R and D in Asia and the Pacific. International Plant Genetic Resources Institute. p. 3. ISBN 978-971-91751-3-1. Retrieved 2021-12-08.
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h i Susilawati, Dewi; Ahmad, Fajarudin; Khastini, Rida Oktorida; Laksono, Suroso Mukti; Maryan, Nani (7 August 2023). "Bananas and Their Wild Relatives in Pandeglang, Indonesia". HAYATI Journal of Biosciences (in Indonesian). 30 (6): 1071–1091. doi:10.4308/hjb.30.6.1071-1091. eISSN 2086-4094. ISSN 1978-3019.
  14. ^ Pinar, Hasan; Unlu, Mustafa; Bircan, Mustafa; Baysal, Filiz; Tuna, Gulsemin Savas; Tuna, Metin; Ercisli, Sezai (14 October 2015). "Genetic characterization of banana clones grown in Turkey based on nuclear DNA content and SRAP markers". Journal of Applied Botany and Food Quality. 88 (2015): 222–227. doi:10.5073/JABFQ.2015.088.032. ISSN 1439-040X – via
  15. ^ "Plantain subgroup". ProMusa. 17 July 2020. Retrieved 2024-04-06.
  16. ^ a b "Iholena subgroup". ProMusa. 22 July 2020. Retrieved 2024-04-06.
  17. ^ Manickam, C. Raja; Rajmohan, K. (June 2010). "Genetic Diversity in Banana (Musa spp.)". Madras Agricultural Journal. 97 (4–6). India: Tamil Nadu Agricultural University: 106–109. doi:10.29321/MAJ.10.100358.

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