Ensete glaucum

Ensete glaucum (W. Roxburgh, Hort. Beng. 19 (1814) (nomen), Corom. Pl. t. 300, 96-98 (1819-1820), Flora Indica 2: 490 (1824) (descr.); ibid ed. 2, 1: 669 (1832)) E. E. Cheesman, Kew Bulletin 2 (2): 101 (1947).

Accepted name Ensete glaucum (W. Roxburgh) E. E. Cheesman, Kew Bulletin 2 (2): 101 (1947).
Synonyms 1. Musa glauca W. Roxburgh, Hort. Beng. 19 (1814) (nomen), Corom. Pl. t. 300, 96-98 (1819-1820), Flora Indica 2: 490 (1824) (descr.); ibid ed. 2, 1: 669 (1832).

2. Musa nepalensis N. Wallich, in W. Roxburgh, Flora Indica 2: 490 (1824) and ibid. ed. 2 vol. 1: 669 (1832).

3. Musa troglodytarum L. var. dolioliformis F. M. Blanco, Flora de Filipinas : 855 (1837) [also ed. II : 174 (1845) & ed. III : 312 (1877).]

4. Musa gigantea C. E. O. Kuntze, Revisio Generum Plantarum 2: 691 (1891).

5. Musa calosperma F. J. H. von Mueller, Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales 10: 355 (1885) and Gardeners' Chronicle series 3, 20: 369 & 467 fig. 85 (1896).

6. Musa wilsonii W. J. Tutcher, Gardeners' Chronicle series 3, 32: 450 [fig. 151: 451] (1902), & Revue Horticole 34 (1903).

7. Ensete calospermum (F. J. H. von Mueller) E. E. Cheesman, Kew Bulletin 2 (2): 102 (1947).

8. Ensete wilsonii (W. J. Tutcher) E. E. Cheesman, Kew Bulletin 2 (2): 103 (1947).

9. Musa agharkarii A. K. Chakravorti, Journal of the Indian botanical Society 27 (2): 93 (1948).

10. Ensete gigantea (C. E. O. Kuntze) T. Nakai, Bulletin of the Tokyo Science Museum 22: 12 (1948).

11. Ensete nepalensis (N. Wallich) E. E. Cheesman, err. cal. N. W. Simmonds, Kew Bulletin 14 (2): 212 (1960).

12. Ensete agharkarii (A. K. Chakravorti) D. K. Hore, B. D. Sharma & G. Pandey, Journal of economic and taxonomic Botany 16 (2): 447-455 (1992).

Authorities Sources for the accepted name are Cheesman 1947a and Simmonds 1960.

Sources of synonymy are as follows:

1. from Cheesman 1947a, Simmonds 1960 and Hara et al 1978.
2. from Hara et al 1978, Hotta 1989 and Flora Xizangica
3. from Merrill's Species Blancoanae (1918) (Gerda Rossel).
4 & 10. from Hotta 1989 (but see comments at Musa gigantea)
5, 6, 7 & 8. from Simmonds 1960 (but Flora of China gives E. wilsonii as a good species)
9 & 12. from Rao & Hajra 1976
11. from Hara et al 1978, Hotta 1989, Simmonds 1960 (but see comments at Ensete nepalensis)

The World Checklist of Monocotyledons gives Ensete glaucum (Roxb.) Cheesman, Kew Bull. 2: 101 (1947 publ. 1948) as the accepted name and lists as synonyms:

Musa glauca Roxb., Pl. Coromandel 3: 96 (1820).
Musa nepalensis Wall. in W.Roxburgh, Fl. Ind. 2: 492 (1824).
Musa troglodytarum var. dolioformis Blanco, Fl. Filip.: 855 (1837).
Musa calosperma F.Muell., Proc. Linn. Soc. New South Wales 10: 356 (1885).
Musa gigantea Kuntze, Revis. Gen. Pl. 2: 691 (1891).
Ensete calospermum (F.Muell.) Cheesman, Kew Bull. 2: 102 (1947 publ. 1948).
Ensete giganteum (Kuntze) Nakai, Bull. Tokyo Sci. Mus. 22: 12 (1948).


Burma (where the original collection was made by Roxburgh when it was part of India sensu lato), China, Thailand, Laos, Viet Nam, Philippines, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea (incl. New Ireland, New Britain, New Hebrides) and the Solomon Islands.

Description Pseudostem glaucous grey-green and waxy, up to 5 m. tall, slightly swollen at the base. Lower parts of the leaf sheaths not clasping but standing out from the base. Sheaths glaucous abaxially, pinkish-brown adaxially. Petioles stout, glaucous-green, 10-45 cm. long. Sap watery, turning rusty-orange upon exposure to the air, after which the colour fades slowly to a dirty grey-black. Leaves grey-green and very waxy. Bracts ovate(-lanceolate), acute and persistent, the female ones glaucous-green (sometimes white with wax), the male ones dull-green inside and outside, lifting before withering. Male bud 3 - 4 times as long as broad, imbricate and conical. Male flowers white or translucent. Outer perianth 3 times as long as the tepal and divided nearly to the base into 3 narrow lobes. Free tepal complex, about as long as broad, consisting of 2 short, largely irregularly dentate lateral lobes enfolding the filaments and of a narrow central lobe with a slender apiculus. Stamen of the basal flowers varying from 5 fully formed stamen to 5 filiform staminodes. Stigma large and 3-lobed, both style and stigma persistent. Inflorescence pendulous with densely packed fruit. Fruits (oblong-)ovoid, yellow or sometimes partly discoloured purple at maturity, with scanty, faintly pinkish-white pulp, containing 9 - 40 seeds. Seeds asymmetrically (sub-)globose or smoothly irregular due to pressure in packed fruit, (dull) black or blackish brown, 9 - 14 mm. in diameter, with a large and depressed hilum.

Habitat: The plants are found growing on slopes, besides streams in India, and in fairly dry open areas, preferably grasslands (from sea level to 1600 m. alt.) in Papua New Guinea (and up to 800 - 1100 m. or even 2700 m. in southern China). The plants relatively fire-resistant, regenerating from the swollen bases after a bush fire.

(Simmonds 1960, Argent 1976, Rao & Hajra 1976, Li 1978, Nguyen Dang Khoi & Valmayor 1995).
References Argent 1976: 82, Backer 1924, Baker 1893: 209-210, Baker 1894a, Blanco 1845, Chakravorti 1951, Champion 1967: 40, Cheesman 1947a: 101, Desmond 1991, De Wildeman 1912, Fawcett 1913: 266, Flora of China, Flora Xizangica, GRIN, Hara et al 1978, Hore et al 1992, Hotta 1989, Howes 1928, IBPGR, Icon. Corm. Sinicorum, Kurz 1877, Le Dinh Danh et al 1998, Li 1978: 56, Li 1981, Mobot Tropicos, Nguyen Dang Khoi & Valmayor 1995: 4, Quisumbing 1919, Rao & Hajra 1976: 208-209, Roxburgh 1824, Sagot 1887, Sastri 1962, Schumann 1912, Simmonds 1956, Simmonds 1960: 205, Teodoro 1915, Tutcher 1902: 450, Tutcher 1903, von Mueller 1896, WCM.
Comments The type of Ensete glaucum, Musa glauca was first collected by Roxburgh in Burma when it was part of India sensu lato. Despite its appearance in modern floras of India and of Nepal Ensete glaucum almost certainly does not occur in these countries as a wild plant. (Possibly it just creeps into Mizoram, Hore et al 1992). It is however cultivated in north eastern India e.g. in Kalimpong and some commercial seed originates there.

Although the plant is said to be strictly monocarpic, an apparently spontaneously suckering specimen has been reported from Vietnam. Sulpiz Kurz (1877) also noted a suckering specimen of Musa glauca "in the Botanical Garden of Java which threw out two shoots, and if accounts are correct, the M. ensete [Ensete ventricosum] of Africa is said to make many shoots (I suppose if the whole plant is cut down before flowering)".

Despite its absence from India and Nepal Ensete glaucum occurs over a wide geographic area. The range may be wider still. According to Simmonds (1960: 208, 212) the flowers of E. glaucum are pure white with white anthers and pollen except in Javanese material which has a "tinge of yellow on the perianth
1". These characters distinguish E. glaucum from E. ventricosum which has the perianth tipped with orange-yellow, the anthers violet or purple and the pollen yellow or greyish. Despite this, Simmonds comments that he can see no reliable differences between the Asian Ensete glaucum and the African Ensete ventricosum and speculates that it might prove ultimately to be necessary to reduce Ensete ventricosum to a synonym of Ensete glaucum which has priority as a name by some 45 years.

Ensete glaucum is just now (2000) being re-introduced to western horticulture and it is to be hoped that certain provenances may turn out to be reasonably cold tolerant; the plant occurs at up to 1,000 m. in China and at 800 m. to 1,100 m. in Tibet. Recently, the Flora of China has separated Ensete glaucum and Ensete wilsonii as distinct, the botanical differences between them being specified as follows:

Ensete glaucum - Pseudostem to 5 m (measured to crown of leaves at maturity); leaf blade 1.4 - 1.8 m, base cuneate; compound tepal ca. 2.5 cm; fruit obovoid-oblong; seeds smooth.

Ensete wilsonii - Pseudostem ca. 1.7 m (measured to crown of leaves at maturity); leaf blade ca. 3.3 m, base slightly cordate to truncate; compound tepal ca. 5 cm; fruit trigonous clavate; seeds slightly wrinkled.

Both E. glaucum and E. wilsonii occur in Yunnan and although the endemic E. wilsonii occurs up to 2,700 m. and E. glaucum only to 1,100 m. there is considerable altitudinal overlap in their ranges. There is the possibility for confusion of identity in Chinese Ensete seed offered commercially. Then again there are some Chinese botanists who hold the view that E. wilsonii does not exist as a species plants attributed to it being inseparable from Ensete glaucum.

1 Simmonds cites C. A. Backer (Handboek voor de Flora van Java (Musaceae) afl. 3: 131, 1924) as the source of the observation that Javanese material has a "tinge of yellow on the perianth". This is actually a slight mistranslation of "geelwit", the colour term used by Backer, the English equivalent of which is ivory-white or creamy-white.

Type: Lectotype: tab. 300 in Roxb., Corom. Pl. 3, 1819 (Argent 1976: 80).


There are four images of Ensete glaucum.
There is an external image of Musa glauca on the RBG Kew Flora Indica website http://www.kew.org/floraIndica/home.do

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last updated 11/04/2008