You heard me. It is a weird concept to accept that bananas do NOT grow on trees! There is absolutely no wood in the base or stalk of the banana plant. There is no true woody tissue in the stem. We understand that this fact has been around far longer than we have been alive, but it threw us off to hear this! So even though the banana is technically a fruit, it grows from a herbaceous plant. The origin of herbaceous comes from mid 17th century Latin meaning 'grassy' ('herba' meaning 'grass, herb') with the suffix 'ous' (which turns a noun into an adjective and changes the meaning to 'full of').
Isn't this a lovely sight to see right outside your door? If only we could reach it....
During our stay here, we've seen miles of banana plants, and it's common to see bananas growing throughout and around towns. In our yard, we had banana and plantain (also a type of banana, but more starchy, firmer, and less sweet) plant. Though we can tell a noticeable difference between what we know as a banana and plantains, there is apparently not really a sharp distinction between the two. In the United States, we are more accustomed to calling the sweet version that comes from the Cavendish group 'bananas'.
We had a really rainy week recently and as we were washing dishes, a large thump with rustling occurred out of nowhere. There is various wildlife outside, but nothing large enough to make that amount of sound. We looked outside to see that one of the banana plants blew over! We took the opportunity to take a closer look at its structure and learn something new.
Hidden in the leaves of the banana plant is the "banana heart" which is the purple blossom of the banana, and is where the bananas grow from. The blossom itself is also edible, being commonly eaten in Southeast Asia. The little yellowish florets are called the "hands" and will eventually mature into the bananas we know and love.
As you can see the plants pseudostem is made up from layers of leaves in a tightly wrapped roll, there is no wood tissue found in this stem! And get a look at those shallow roots! Plant roots help collect water and nutrients for growth and survival while providing support and an anchor.
We were surprised to see such shallow roots, no wonder it had blown over so easily, the roots didn't reach deeper than a few feet!
So why our surprise?
We come from Colorado where wind and weather are not kind. Plants need to be able to create solid connections in the ground. We have had exceptionally high winds that easily uproot age-old trees with deep roots. The roots we are familiar with are called tap roots which has many lateral roots growing out from a large main root. Because of the depth, the root can provide the extra anchorage that also helps search for nutrients further under.
Under ideal circumstances, banana roots can grow to depths of up to 5ft and up to 30 feet horizontally, however, the soil and water heavily impact root size and depth.
Hope you enjoyed learning about these amazing plants with us!