Musa coccinea

Musa coccinea H. C. Andrews, Botanists Repository pl. 47 (1797).

Accepted name Musa coccinea H. C. Andrews, Botanists Repository pl. 47 (1797).
Synonyms Musa uranoscopos J. de Loureiro, Flora Cochinchinensis, 645 (1790) in error.
Authorities Cheesman 1950q, Liu et al 2002, Argent & Kiew 2002

The World Checklist of Monocotyledons lists Musa uranoscopos Lour., Fl. Cochinch.: 645 (1790), nom. illeg. and Quesnelia lamarckii Baker, Handb. Bromel.: 85 (1889) as synonyms of Musa coccinea Andrews, Bot. Repos. 1: t. 47 (1799) which is given as an accepted name.

Section Callimusa
Distribution Indo-China, China (Kanton, Kwangsi, Waitsap dist.)
Description "Plant stooling freely : pseudostems up to 1.5 metres high, 5 cm. in diameter at base, green, devoid of wax ; leaf blades up to 1 m. long, 25 cm. wide, narrowed gradually to a rounded apex, rounded at base with one side [the right side] usually longer than the other, shining dark green above, paler beneath but not glaucous ; midribs green like the lamina above, paler beneath : petioles up to 35 cm., with narrow erect margins clasping the pseudostem, not becoming scarious.

Inflorescence quite erect, its peduncle scarcely emerging from the sheath of the subtending leaf, the rachis glabrous ; last foliage leaf with reddish petiole ; sterile bracts usually 2, bright scarlet with green leaflike tips ; first fertile bract about 15 cm. long ; flowers of the basal bracts female, from 1 to 4 clusters or occasionally more, upper flowers male.

Female flowers 1 - 3 per bract ; ovary 3 - 4 cm. long, 1.5 - 2 cm. wide, dorsiventrally compressed, orange-yellow, glabrous ; compound tepal 3.5 cm. long, orange-yellow with green lobes, the lateral lobes oval-oblong about 4 mm. long with a spinelike dorsal appendage of about 2 mm., centre lobe smaller and about equal in size to the accessory teeth which are joined to it to form one 3-lobed member ; free tepal as long as the compound, dorsally thickened, opaque, and orange in colour, laterally hyaline ; staminodes short (about 1 cm.) ; style as long as the perianth with a bright orange clavate stigma.

Male bud in advanced blooming very "open", the bracts persisting unwithered for many days, so that there are finally about 20 open at once, but only the last one or two still with flowers ; closed portion of the bud ovoid, the bracts imbricate at the tip ; bracts oblong, lower ones about 7 cm. long, 3 cm. wide, very firm in texture, bright scarlet on both surfaces, not shining on the outside, with the extreme tip yellow or green.

Males flowers 2 per bract ; compound tepal 3.5 - 4 cm. long bright orange with green tip and lobes, the lateral lobes 3 mm. long with a spine-like dorsal appendage of about 1 mm., the centre lobe shorter and without appendage, joined to the accessory teeth ; free tepal as long as the compound, narrow oblong, about 7 mm. wide, dorsally thick, opaque, and orange in colour, laterally hyaline, obtuse at apex ; stamens nearly as long as the perianth, not exserted.

Fruit oblong, 4 - 5 cm. long crowned by the persistent withered perianth, 2 - 2.5 cm. wide somewhat laterally compressed dorsiventrally, rounded at the sessile base, narrowed to a truncate apex ; pericarp about 1.5 mm. thick, orange-yellow at full maturity with a waxy bloom ; pulp white.

Seeds almost cylindrical, black about 6 mm. long, a little wider at the top than at the base, with a distinct waist marking the base of the perisperm chamber within, 4 mm. in diameter at the waist, the surface marked with longitudinal warty ridges".

(Cheesman 1950 q).

References Argent 1984, Argent & Kiew 2002, Baker 1893 : 220, Cheesman 1950q : 29, Flora of China, Flora of Guandong, Graf Exotica & Tropica, Griffiths 1994, GRIN, Huxley 1992, IPGRI, Liu et al 2002 : 79, Lock 1993, Moore 1957 : 181, RHS 1956, Sagot 1887 : 330.
Comments The literature on Musa coccinea H. C. Andrews is confusing in respect of its spelling and its relationship with Musa uranoscopos J. de Loureiro.  Loureiro's description of Musa uranoscopos is at    

First the spelling.

Andrews' original 1797 description gives the spelling as Musa coccinea and most literature, including GRIN, gives Musa coccinea. However, the name is spelled Musa coccinia at Mobot Tropicos and also by Makino 1979, two normally trustworthy authorities, and at TFRI.  These are mistakes.

Second, the synonymy.

In the European Garden Flora, Argent 1984 states that Musa coccinea is synonymous with Musa uranoscopus and gives Musa coccinea as the accepted name. In the New RHS Dictionary of Gardening, Huxley 1992, gives the same synonymy but gives Musa uranoscopus as the accepted name. The two sources one might reasonably turn to for guidance here are contradictory. Recently the Flora of China reduced Musa uranoscopos (there is a difference in spelling here too) under Musa coccinea.

Kurz was certain that Andrew's and Loureiro's plants were the same. In his chronological review of Musa, Kurz introduces the plant by writing that "Andrews [ ] published Musa coccinea, based upon Loureiro's M. uranoscopos". Later, while commenting on the rules of botanical nomenclature Kurz says that they "force" him "to call with Loureiro the present Musa coccinea M. uranoscopos".

As noted by Cheesman 1950, "J. G. Baker (1893) gives as a synonym of Musa coccinea Andr., "M. Uranoscopos Lour. Fl. Cochinch. 645 excl. syn. Rumph." and if he is right Uranoscopos would appear to be the correct epithet for this species, since Loureiro's Flora Cochinchinensis antedates Andrews description by seven years."

There is no doubt about the chronological priority of Musa uranoscopos but was J. G. Baker right about the identity of the plants? E. D. Merrill 1935 obviously thought so and in his commentary on Loureiro's Flora Cochinchinensis he wrote that "from the local name cited by Loureiro [Anamese choi tu] it appears that his specimens were from Indo-China. His description is manifestly based on actual specimens. [ ] Loureiro's description [of Musa uranoscopos] applies unmistakably to the species with red bracts cultivated for ornamental purposes and currently known as Musa coccinea Andr. [ ] The binomial Musa uranoscopos Lour. is valid under all rules for this particular species (M. coccinea Andr.)".

That seems clear enough but Cheesman 1950q deliberately refrains from reducing Musa coccinea because he considers that the Musa of Indo-China are not sufficiently well studied to identify Loureiro's plant with the same confidence as Musa coccinea. He goes on to comment that "until the species of that region have been critically re-examined we should refrain from substituting a somewhat doubtful identification for a certain one".

Two papers published in 2002 apparently clarify the situation.

Liu et al 2002 rejected the name M. uranoscopos Lour. as contrary to ICBN (Art. 53.1) because it brought into synonymy the homonym Musa uranoscopos Rumph. and therefore accepted the name Musa coccinea Andrews.

Argent & Kiew 2002 argue that M. uranoscopos Lour. is effectively the same as M. uranoscopos Rumph. which is widely held to be a Fe'i group cultivar.  Argent and Kiew conclude that "we can ignore the arguments made by Cheesman (1950) in informally rejecting M. uranoscopos Lour. as a nomen dubium [].  Merrill (1935) was also quite wrong in his interpretation of the facts.  He had no direct evidence that Loureiro had "actual specimens".  Merrill had certainly not seen any.  He states that Musa uranoscopos Rumph. was clearly a synonym but failed to realise that M. troglodytarum L. was also a synonym and would take precedence [] except that this has been interpreted [as a Fe'i group cultivar].  Thus Musa coccinea Andrews was validly published and the magnificent plate (Andrews 1799 plate 47) forms an admirable holotype; as such it should not be confused in any way with the name M. uranoscopos".

Cheesman notes that this is the earliest described of the species he grouped together in section Callimusa but its superficial resemblance to other members of the section is not strong. Evidence is emerging that Musa coccinea does not belong in section Callimusa.

The plant was introduced to the U.K. about 1791 (B. M. 1559; L. B. C. 475.) and was awarded an AGM by the RHS as Musa uranoscopus.

Specimens: Tsang no. 23320 in Herb. Mus. Paris.


There are 3 images of Musa coccinea.

Andrews "magnificent plate" does not appear to be available online yet but there are two early images as follows:
The illustration of Musa coccinea that Roxburgh commissioned for Flora Indica is available via
Roxburgh's description of Musa coccinea from the 1832 edition of Flora Indica is at
There is an external image of Musa coccinea in Curtis's Botanical Magazine 38: t. 1559 et seq  (1813) at

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last updated 01/05/2008