robust, about 4 m. tall, foliage yellowish-green in colour ; sheaths smudged
with blackish brown, devoid of wax except on young suckers and then faint ; petioles
open with narrowly reflexed scarious wings ; laminas, the bases
rounded or even slightly auriculate, flushed pale purple underneath at emergence, the
colour later fading, longest persistent on the midrib ; juice watery ; inflorescence
far outshot from the pseudostem, borne on a robust (4 - 5 cm.) pubescent peduncle ; fruit
bunch oblique, rather lax, about 4 hands each of 7 - 9 biseriate fruits ; fruits
splayed, massive, angular, 11 x 4 cm., bluntly rounded apiculate at the apex, abruptly
tapered into the massive pedicel (2 x 1 - 2 cm.) at maturity green turning brown and
drying off from the tip proximally, skin thick (5 mm.) and brittle rather than fibrous,
enclosing a mass of large seeds embedded in a scanty dirty white or pale brownish-pink
pulp ; seeds sharply angular, smooth, 6 - 10 mm. wide x 5 - 6 mm. deep with
a saucer shaped hilum depression 2 x 1 mm. ; male rachis pendent, tapered
rather markedly from base to apex, bract insertions not prominent, but long (far exceeding
the flower scars) and curved, distant from each other at the base, much closer together at
the distal end of the rachis ; male bud in advanced blooming large,
turbinate about 12 x 8 cm., very slightly imbricate at the tip, probably (judging by the
male rachis) very large and more strongly imbricate when young ; bracts, 1 -
2 raised at a time, deciduous, not or but slightly rolled back before falling, broadly
ovate, obtuse, slightly ribbed and waxy, dull (purple-) crimson and somewhat dull
yellow-variegated at the basal margins without, dull (not shiny) and crimson to the base
within, outer tips yellowish ; male flowers about 14 per bract, biseriate ; compound
tepal pale creamy orange, paling towards the base, 35 mm. long ; free tepal
translucent, colourless, non- corrugated, minutely denticulate at the tip, 16 mm. long ; style
white below, creamy above, tapered into the narrow-elongate creamy stigma ; stamens
five, equal to the compound tepal, the anthers white (pink in B.E. 92)."
2. "Pseudostem to 4m,
robust, (35 - 40 cm. diameter at base), tinged reddish. Leaf sheaths marked
blackish-brown, waxy only when young. Petiole c. 65 cm., channelled, margins erect,
narrowly blackish-scarious, forming a black line in lower part against pseudostem. Leaves
spreading, blades oblong-lanceolate, base rounded or slightly cordate, 1.8 - 2.1 x 0.6 m.,
yellowish-green, shining on both surfaces, usually purplish when young, sometimes beneath
when older, midrib red or purplish beneath. Bracts broadly ovate, obtuse, not reflexing,
deep purple to crimson, glaucous outside, inside concolorous, 1 - 2 male bracts opening at
once. Male bud c. 12 x 8 cm., turbinate. Male flowers c. 14 per bract; compound tepal c.
3.5 cm., creamy-orange; free tepal c. 1.6 cm., translucent; stamens equalling compound
tepal. Fruit bunch oblique, c. 4 hands each of 7 - 9 fruits borne in two rows; fruits
rather lax, arising from large, brown callosities on axis, 11 - 15 x 4 cm., angled at
maturity, abruptly narrowed into massive pedicel (c. 2 x 1 - 2 cm.), apex bluntly rounded
apiculate; pericarp green turning brown. Seeds numerous, sharply angled, smooth, 6 - 10.5
x 5 - 6 mm., black, pulp scanty, dirty white to pale brownish-pink. [ ] Fl/Fr. October -
3. "Perennial herbs with
stolons. Pseudostems short 1 - 1.5 m long. Flowers 6 - 8 in two rows,
yellow. Fruits 7 - 10 cm long. Throughout Sikkim on hill slopes. Fl.
& Fr.: Feb. - Oct."
(Hajra & Verma 1996).
||There is a great deal of interest in this plant because of
its supposed cold hardiness, possibly as hardy as Musa basjoo. It was
introduced into general cultivation in 1998 by Toby Spanner
via seed that was initially and unfortunately offered under the name Musa hookeri; this has now been corrected but the name M.
hookeri is still in wide circulation. There have also been commercial
importations of suckers from India under the name M. sikkimensis. No doubt
as the result of such activities we can look forward to a period of further confusion of
taxa and nomenclature in the horticultural trade.
Although the species has been known since 1877, well defined
by Kurz if not fully described, it is notable that Cheesman in his 1948 - 1950 series of
"Critical Notes on Species" in Kew Bulletin was not sufficiently confident about
it to treat it in its own right. He mentions it only as an entity allied to Musa
nagensium Prain (which is why I have tentatively put M. sikkimensis
alongside M. nagensium into the section Musa (2) of Simmonds and
The status of M. sikkimensis as a distinct species was firmed up by Simmonds
1956. Simmonds noted a certain confusion of "specimens,
labels, drawings and notes" in relation to the definition of M.
sikkimensis and created a neotype for the species from a collection made at 6,000 ft.
at Darjeeling. Simmonds gives a full description of the species, based on the
neotype, something that his untimely death no doubt prevented Sulpiz Kurz from doing
himself. Simmonds also noted specimens from Assam, Sikkim and Manipur, and possibly
varietally distinct differences between them, and thought it possible that the species
"ranges widely over the higher ground between Tibet and Burma".
Nothwithstanding the "confusion" of material and following Baker 1893, Simmonds,
with typical certainty, firmly reduced Musa hookeri to a synonym of M.
sikkimensis. Noltie's treatment of M. sikkimensis in Flora of Bhutan
re-inforces its status and he also reduces M. hookeri to a synonym.
Into these newly calm waters comes Dr B Krishna's
frustratingly brief notes in Flora of Sikkim (Hajra & Verma 1996). Dr Krishna
not only gives a description for Musa sikkimensis different from Simmonds and
from Noltie but revives the name Musa hookeri and gives to it a description that
seems to match that given by Simmonds and by Noltie to M. sikkimensis.
Since all of these gentlemen have known the plant in the field it seems necessary to
accept their respective positions at face value and admit that is it currently not
possible to reconcile them.
In the context of M. sikkimensis Cheesman noted in
1948 that "the first requirement is to determine by
re-collection how many of the large-seeded species there are in Sikkim".
It would seem that further collection is still necessary to allow a definitive review to
be made of the Musa species of north-eastern India.
There are currently 3 images of Musa sikkimensis
from Toby Spanner's seed.