Siebold & Zucc. ex Iinuma
Musa basjoo, known variously as Japanese banana, Japanese fibre banana or hardy banana, is a species belonging to the genus Musa. It was previously thought to have originated in the Ryukyu islands of southern Japan, from where it was first described in cultivation, but is now known to have originated in subtropical southern China, where it is also widely cultivated, with wild populations found in Sichuan province.
Musa basjoo is a herbaceous perennial with trunk-like pseudostems[a] growing to around 2–2.5 m (6.6–8.2 ft), with a crown of mid-green leaves growing up to 2 m (6.6 ft) long and 70 cm (28 in) wide when mature. The species produces male and female flowers on the same inflorescence which may extend for over 1 m (3.3 ft). The banana fruit formed are yellow-green, around 5–10 cm (2.0–3.9 in) long and 2–3 cm (0.79–1.18 in) broad; they are inedible, with sparse white pulp and many black seeds.
Musa basjoo has been cultivated both for its fibre and as an ornamental plant in gardens outside its natural range, first in Japan, and from the late 19th century, then in the warmer parts of western Europe (north to Britain), the United States, and southern Canada. In gardens it is used as a hardy 'tropical foliage' plant. Although the pseudostem may only cope with a few degrees below freezing, the underground rhizome is considered frost hardy, if well insulated with thick mulch, in areas with winter temperatures down to −12 °C (10 °F). The roots are considered hardy to −10 °C (14 °F). If the pseudostem is killed, the banana will resprout from the ground where it rapidly grows to full size in a season under optimal conditions. Thus, it can be grown as far north as USDA zone 6a. It can also be overwintered under cover in a pot and kept growing, which is the only way it can be made to fruit in northern regions as it requires 12–24 months of warmth to bloom.
In Japan, Musa basjoo plant fibres are used to produce textiles known in Japanese as bashōfu (芭蕉布, lit. "banana cloth"). Whole pseudostems are cut into strips up to 3 m long. These are beaten, bleached and dried to produce the raw material, which can then be made into products like hand-knotted carpets, tablecloths, kimonos and paper. Outside Japan, Manila hemp is obtained from related plant, Musa textilis, whose unbleached fibres are used for high strength rope.
- A pseudostem is a false stem formed by the rolled bases of leaves.
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