Musa balbisiana

Musa balbisiana L. A. Colla, Memoria della Reale Accademia delle Scienze di Torino 25 : 384 (1820). [Memoria sul genera Musa e monografia del Medesimo 56 (1820).] and E. E. Cheesman, Kew Bulletin 3 (1): 14 (1948).

Accepted name Musa balbisiana L. A. Colla, Memoria della Reale Accademia delle Scienze di Torino 25 : 384 (1820). [Memoria sul genera Musa e monografia del Medesimo 56 (1820).] and E. E. Cheesman, Kew Bulletin 3 (1): 14 (1948).
Synonyms 1. Calem-Bala Hendrick Adriaan van Rheede tot Drakenstein, Hort. Malab. 20 (1686).
2. Musa XI Pisang batu seu pisang bidii G. E. Rumphius, Herb. Amb. 5, 132, t. 60 fig. f. (1750).
3. Musa x paradisiaca var. granulosa J. G. A. Forster, De Plantis Esculentis Insulam Oceani Australis Commentatio Botanica: 31 (1786).
4. Musa troglodytarum C. Linnaeus, Species Plantarum ed. II. 1478 p.p. (1763).
5. Musa seminifera J. de Loureiro, Fl. Cochinch. 644 p.p. (1790).
6. Musa sapientum C. Linnaeus ("the wild sort") sensu W. Roxburgh: Hort. Beng. 19 (1814); Corom. Pl. t. 275 (1819); Fl. Ind. 2, 484 (1824) et ed. 2. 663 (1832): non C. Linnaeus.
7. Musa sapientum C. Linnaeus sec. F. A. W. Miquel, Fl. Ind. Bat. 587 (1855) p.p. quoad Pisang bidji; sec. S. Kurz in Journ. Agric. Hort. Soc. India 14, 296 - 301 (1865 - 66) p.p. excl. syn. M. paradisiaca; non C. Linnaeus.
8. Musa paradisiaca C. Linnaeus sec. Trimen, Flora of Ceylon 4, 265 (1898); non C. Linnaeus.
9. Musa brachycarpa C. A. Backer in Handb. Flora van Java, Afl. 3. p. 134 (1924).
10. Musa sapientum subsp. seminifera forma pruinosa G. King MSS ex J. G. Baker, Ann. Bot. 7, 214 (1893); E. E. Cheesman, Kew Bull. 1948, 327
11. Musa sapientum var. pruinosa G. King MSS ex A. M. Cowan & J. M. Cowan, Trees of North Bengal, 135 (1929).
12. Musa liukiuensis (J. Matsumura) T. Makino ex H. Kuroiwa, Botanical Magazine (Tokyo) 14: 141 (1900) et (J. Matsumura) T. Makino, Botanical Magazine (Tokyo) 26: 181 (1912).
13. Musa paradisiaca subsp. seminifera var. pruinosa G. King ex K. Schumann
14. Musa sapientum var. pruinosa (G. King ex K. Schumann) A. M. Cowan & J. M. Cowan
15. Musa sapientum sensu J. G. Baker non L.
16. Musa paradisiaca subsp. sapientum (L.) K. Schumann
17. Musa x sapientum var. liukiuensis J. Matsumura, Bot. Mag., Tokyo 11: 69 (1897).
18. Musa seminifera J. de Loureiro
19. Musa paradisiaca subsp. seminifera (J. de Loureiro) J. G. Baker
20. Musa dechangensis J. L. Liu & M. G. Liu
21. Musa lushanensis J. L. Liu
22. Musa luteola J. L. Liu
23. Musa errans var. botoan N. G. Teodoro, the Philippine Journal of Science, C 10: 391 (1915)
Authorities The accepted name is from Cheesman 1948a and Simmonds 1956.

The sources of synonyms are as follows:

1 & 2 & 4 - 9 are from Cheesman 1948a (1 & 2 are pre-Linnean and, strictly, should be ignored as synonyms).
10 & 11 are from Simmonds 1956.
12 from Jarrett 1986.
13 & 14 are from Noltie 1994.
15 & 16 are from Hajra & Verma 1996.
17 is from GRIN where Musa liukiuensis is treated as a valid species.
18 & 19 are from the Flora of Guandong.
20 - 22 are from Wu 1997 but Liu et al 2000 consider Wu's analysis to be flawed and that these taxa are instead Musa basjoo.
2, 5 & 10 are from Champion 1967.
23 from Valmayor et al 2002.

The World Checklist of Monocotyledons lists Musa balbisiana Colla, Mem. Gen. Musa: 56 (1820) as an accepted name.

Section Eumusa (Musa) 2
Distribution India, Burma, Tibet, Sri Lanka east to Papua New Guinea.

"Plant stooling freely ; pseudostems robust, up to more than 6 metres high, commonly at least 30 cm. in diameter at base, predominantly green or yellowish green, the upper parts of the leaf-sheaths often with black markings and the lower parts in age often light reddish brown ; leaf- sheaths and petioles usually more or less glaucous or pruinose, sometimes heavily so.

Leaf blades oblong, up to more than 3 m. long, 60 cm. wide, truncate at apex, rounded or slightly cordate at base, green above, paler and more or less glaucous beneath, midribs green or yellowish green ; petioles 60 cm. long or longer, strongly concave above, their edges almost meeting over the adaxial channel, margins inconspicuous above, more developed below, where the petiole passes into the leaf-sheath, here closely appressed to the pseudostem, not becoming scarious, often bordered by a black line.

Inflorescence pendulous, its peduncle and rachis glabrous ; basal flowers female, the number of female hands varying up to about 10 (10 - 15 fide Backer) ; upper hands male.

Male bud in advanced blooming broadly ovoid to ellipsoidal, the bracts imbricate at the blunt apex. Bracts various shades of purple, broadly ovate, rounded at apex, often greenish or yellow at extreme tip ; outer surface more or less glaucous, usually longitudinally ribbed, inner surface dark crimson to the base, transversely corrugated between the ribs ; several bracts lifted at the same time, exposing several hands of male flowers simultaneously ; bracts usually soon deciduous after flowering but occasionally persistent in a withered condition, especially in the later stages of blooming.

Male flowers about 20 per bract, in two rows ; compound tepal 4 - 5 cm. long, about 1.2 cm. wide, whitish in ground colour but commonly more or less purplish within, the pigmentation varying from a pale blotch at the base of the tepal to bright reddish purple over most of its length, and showing through to the outside as a pink tinge ; upper part of tepal, including the teeth, yellow, varying from pale yellow to rather dark orange, the teeth about 5 mm. long, the 2 outer with a dorsal filiform appendage 1 - 2 mm. long ; free tepal about half as long as the compound tepal, translucent white or pinkish, more or less boat-shaped, obtuse, truncate, or emarginate at apex, with a short mucronate apicula ; stamens at first as long as the perianth, later exserted.

Fruit bunch pendent, very compact, the crowded fruits having little room (except in the basal hand) to reflex geotropically, and consequently for the most part standing out from the rachis. Individual fruit about 10 cm. long (7 - 15 cm. Backer), 4 cm. in diameter, distinctly angulate at maturity, rather abruptly narrowed at base into a pedicel of 1 - 2 cm., and more gradually at apex into a short broad acumen ; pericarp about 3 mm. thick, pale yellow at full ripeness, soon blackening ; pulp whitish.

Seeds black, irregularly globose, scarcely depressed, minutely warty, 5 - 6 mm. across and 4 - 5 mm. high".

(Cheesman 1948a. The references to Backer in the above description is cited below).

References Argent 1976, Backer 1924 : 134, Backer & Bakhuizen 1968 : 37-38, Colla 1820, Champion 1967 : 39, Cheesman 1948a : 11, Flora Guandong, Flora Xizangica, GRIN, Hajra & Verma 1996, Huxley 1992, IPGRI, Jarrett 1986, Jones 2000 : 10, Lancaster 1995, Mobot VAST database, Noltie 1994, Novak 1992, Roxburgh 1819 : t 275, Simmonds 1956 : 472, Stover 1972, Uphof 1968, WCM, Wu 1997, Zeven & Zhukovsky 1975 : 53.
Comments In contrast to the polymorphic Musa acuminata with numerous subspecies identified Musa balbisiana appears to be a relatively uniform species with only one variety reported recently from the Andaman Islands, see next entry. To some extent this uniformity is an illusion. While not as variable as M. acuminata taxonomists working in the field in India and south-east Asia are well aware that variability exists in M. balbisiana.

This distribution map for Musa balbisiana is from Jones 2000.

As well as being a genetic constituent along with M. acuminata in some of the most important of cultivated bananas and plantains, it is now recognised that there are triploid cultivars derived exclusively from M. balbisiana.

For such a fundamental banana species it is interesting to note that it was not formally described in its modern, accepted sense until 1948.

The fruits of Musa balbisiana are pickled (presumably when young before the seeds have developed) and the male flower buds are eaten as a vegetable according to Uphof 1968. Zeven & Zhukovsky 1975 note that it is said to be cultivated in its own right for leaves for packing material or as a fibre plant. In fact, Musa balbisiana (as Musa liukiuensis) is the true Japanese Fibre Banana or ito-basho grown (but mainly "wild") in the Ryukyu Islands of Japan from which the cloth basho is woven. Musa basjoo is not the Japanese Fibre Banana. Neither M. balbisiana nor M. basjoo is native to the Ryukyu Islands or to Japan being probably introduced, respectively, from the Philippines or Java and China.


There is 1 image of Musa balbisiana.
Roxburgh's image of what he thought was "the original wild Musa", Musa sapientum (= M. balbisiana) is at and the text is at

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last updated 20/10/2008