Ensete gilletii

Ensete gilletii (E. A. J. De Wildeman, Revue des Cultures Coloniales (Paris) 8, 71: 102 (1901), and Not. Pl. Ut. Inter. Fl. Congo 1: 73 seq. and t. 5 & 6 (1903)) E. E. Cheesman, Kew Bulletin 2 (2): 103 (1947).

Accepted name

Ensete gilletii (E. A. J. De Wildeman, Revue des Cultures Coloniales (Paris) 8, 71: 102 (1901), and Not. Pl. Ut. Inter. Fl. Congo 1: 73 seq. and t. 5 & 6 (1903)) E. E. Cheesman, Kew Bulletin 2 (2): 103 (1947).


Ensete livingstonianum (J. Kirk, Journal of the Linnean Society 9: 128 (1867)) E. E. Cheesman, Kew Bulletin 2 (2): 101 (1947).


1. Musa religiosa J. Dybowski in Rev. Hort. 72: 262 (1900) and E. A. J. De Wildeman (err. cal.), Ann. Mus. Colon. Mars. ser. 2, 7: 245 (1909) and ser. 2, 10: 352 (1912) (nomen nudum).

2. Musa elephantorum K. M. Schumann & O. Warburg ex K. M. Schumann in A. Engler's Pflanzenr. 4, 45: 14 (1900) (nomen dubium).

3. Musa gilletii E. A. J. De Wildeman, Revue des Cultures Coloniales (Paris) 8, 71: 102 (1901), and Not. Pl. Ut. Inter. Fl. Congo 1: 73 seq. and t. 5 & 6 (1903).

4. Musa martretiana A. J. B. Chevalier, Bull. Soc. Acclim. Paris 79 (1907) nomen, and Rev. Bot. Appl. 14: 507 (1934) (nomen nudum).

5. Musa chevalieri F. Gagnepain, Bull. Soc. Bot. France 55, mém. 8: 87 (1908), and A. J. B. Chevalier, Novitates Florae Africanae in Mémoires de la Société Botanique de France 8: 31 - 109 (1908).

6. Musa procera, A. J. B. Chevalier.

7. Musa dybowskii E. A. J. De Wildeman (err. cal.), Ann. Mus. Col. Mars. ser. 2, 7: 245 (1909) (nomen nudum).

8. Musa riperti A. Chevalier, Expl. Bot. Afr. Occ. Franc. 1: 632 (1920) (nomen nudum).

9. Musa schweinfurthii sensu Hutchinson & Dalziel in F.W.T.A. ed. 1, 2: 328 (1936) and not of K. M. Schumann & O. Warburg ex K. M. Schumann in A. Engler's Pflanzenr. 4, 45: 14 (1900), ex Hepper in F.W.T.A. ed. 2, 3: 69 (1968).

10. Ensete elephantorum (K. M. Schumann & O. Warburg) E. E. Cheesman, Kew Bulletin 2 (2): 102 (1947) (nomen dubium).

11. Ensete religiosum (J. Dybowski) E. E. Cheesman, Kew Bulletin 2 (2): 103 (1947) (nomen nudum).

Authorities The source for the accepted name and synonym 3 is Cheesman 1947a. 6 is from Gerda Rossel based on information in Herb. Mus. Paris. Other synonymy, or perhaps more correctly "other names associated with Ensete gilletii" is from Griffiths 1994 and Hepper 1968.

However, the World Checklist of Monocotyledons gives Ensete gilletii (De Wild.) Cheesman, Kew Bull. 2: 103 (1947 publ. 1948) (Musa gilletii De Wild., Rev. Cultures Colon. 8: 102 (1900)) as a synonym of Ensete livingstonianum (J.Kirk) Cheesman, Kew Bull. 2: 101 (1947 publ. 1948) which is given as an accepted name.

Distribution Africa, from Malawi to Sierra Leone. [Angola, Guinea-Conakry, Mali, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Nigeria, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi]. The occurrence of E. gilletii in Angola depends on the identification of Gossweiler no. 4715 in the Herbarium at RBG Kew by Baker & Simmonds 1953: 407.
Description Plant ca. 4 m., pseudostem ca. 2 m., somewhat swollen at the base. Quickly forming a corm (which is very attractive to weevils) after germination, unlike Ensete ventricosum. Leaves elliptic-lanceolate, glaucous underneath, decreasing in size towards the inflorescence, spread along the pseudostem, giving the plant a canna-like appearance. Petioles stout, reddish or purplish at the base, narrow in the middle, pruinose-glaucous inside. Inflorescence with short peduncle, drooping with crowded fruits. Bracts ovate-lanceolate, persistent, green to 25 cm. long by 9 cm. wide. Male flowers colourless transparent and persistent, perianth with 3 lobes or semi-orbicular teeth. Free tepal half as long, with 2 - 3 obtuse teeth. Anthers yellow, pollen abundant. Fruits slightly trigonal, club-shaped, oblong, angled, greyish or green with white dots outside and whitish or yellowish jelly-like pulp (violet on exposure to the air), dry and yellow-orange when ripe. Seeds smooth, shining black, 7 - 10 mm. in diameter. Habitat grasslands, 900 - 1100 m. Found in relatively dry habitats, dying down to a perennating corm in unfavourably dry seasons. Not thriving in humid and lowland conditions.

(Fawcett 1913, Moore 1957, Koechlin 1965, Champion 1967).

References Akoègninou et al (eds.) 2006, Aluka, Baker & Simmonds 1953: 407, Champion 1967: 10, Cheesman 1947a: 103, Griffiths 1994, GRIN, Hepper 1968, Huxley 1992, IPGRI, Jacques-Felix 1955, Koechlin 1965, Lebrun & Stork 1995, Lock 1993, Moore 1957: 190, Simmonds 1960: 209-211, WCM.
Comments Cheesman created Ensete gilletii as a new combination (number 14 out of 25) in a brief note in his 1947 paper reviving the genus Ensete. Cheesman revived one and created 24 Ensete species in that paper but acknowledged that field study might reveal synonymy. Thus far the status of E. gilletii has not seriously been challenged but it is not surprising that there has been speculation on the possible relationship of E. gilletii with E. ventricosum given the wide range and phenotypic variability of the latter. Lock 1993, for example, opines that E. gillettii (err. typ.) is possibly no more than a subspecies of Ensete ventricosum.

Apart from in Angola and the Central African Republic the ranges of E. gilletii and E. ventricosum do not overlap. E. gilletii generally inhabits a more westerly range and rather drier habitats than E. ventricosum where it has a tendency to die down to a perennating corm in unfavourably dry seasons (cf. the other African Ensete, E. homblei).

E. gilletii is intermediate in size between the very large E. ventricosum and the "tiny" E. homblei. There has been no study of comparative floral anatomy that would shed light on the possible relationship between the species. The only difference reported between E. gilletii and E. ventricosum is that in a flowering plant of E. gilletii leaves are borne on the inflorescence axis, grading into the bracts, and giving the plant a somewhat canna-like appearance (cf. descriptions of E. homblei) whereas in E. ventricosum the inflorescence emerges from an undisturbed "crown" of leaves. Personal observations by G. Rossel in the field suggest that the reddish colouration of the petioles and midribs and seed size are as variable in E. gilletii as they are in E. ventricosum.

Several of the Ensete species created by Cheesman and rejected by Baker & Simmonds have an association with E. gilletii, these are E. livingstonianum, E. proboscideum, E. elephantorum and E. religiosum.

E. livingstonianum is rejected because the type comprises elements of E. gilletii and E. ventricosum. E. proboscideum is rejected because the description and typification are too poor to distinguish between E. gilletii and E. ventricosum. E. elephantorum and E. religiosum are somewhat more intriguing. The type of E. elephantorum in the Berlin Herbarium was destroyed during WW II preventing a modern assessment but recollection of material from the type locality by Koechlin suggests it might have been E. gilletii. Similarly, although the type of E. religiosum was never properly described other evidence makes it clear that it was in fact E. gilletii. Both E. elephantorum and E. religiosum would have had priority over E. gilletii had they been properly described and typified. Both were published in 1900 but Cheesman gives E. elephantorum precedence.

The inclusion of Musa religiosa as synonym of Ensete gilletii in the New RHS Dictionary of Gardening (Huxley 1992) and the Index (Griffiths 1994) is a carry-over of the name from the RHS Dictionary of Gardening (RHS 1956). According to Moore 1957, plants grown as Musa religiosa Dybowski (in the USA?) are probably Ensete gilletii "judging from indirect evidence".


There are four images of Ensete gilletii.
There are four external images of Ensete gilletii at the Aluka website http://www.aluka.org

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last updated 04/09/2008