Musa gigantea

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

Accepted name none - type species dubia
Synonyms Ensete gigantea (C. E. O. Kuntze) T. Nakai, Bulletin of the Tokyo Science Museum 22: 12 (1948).
Authorities The authorities for the species dubia designation are Cheesman 1947 and Simmonds 1960, notwithstanding Hotta 1989, see comments below.

The synonym is from Nakai 1948.

The World Checklist of Monocotyledons gives Musa gigantea Kuntze, Revis. Gen. Pl. 2: 691 (1891) as a synonym of Ensete giganteum (Kuntze) Nakai, Bull. Tokyo Sci. Mus. 22: 12 (1948) itself a synonym of Ensete glaucum (Roxb.) Cheesman, Kew Bull. 2: 101 (1947 publ. 1948) which is listed as an accepted name.

Distribution Sumatra.
Description Plant nearly 30 ft. high, not suckering. Inflorescence 10 ft. long. Bracts green, ovate-oblong. Flowers white, 20 - 40 to each bract. Fruit 2 in. long, angled. Seeds very small.

(Fawcett 1913).

Pseudostem 9 to 10 metres tall, 40 cm. or more in diameter. Fruits 5 to 6 cm. in diameter.

(Nakai 1948).

Solitary pseudostems 7 - 9 m. high, 30 cm. or more in diameter. A pendulous inflorescence 3 m. long bears female flowers in the lower fourth, male flowers above in the axils of spreading, persistent, ovate-oblong bracts 25 cm. long 11 cm. wide. White flowers 5 - 6 cm. long number 20 - 40 in each cluster. The angled fruit is about 5 cm. long and bears 8 - 10 small pale seeds 1 - 3 mm. across in a scarcely fleshy pulp.

(Moore 1957).

References Champion 1967: 40, Cheesman 1947a : 104, Fawcett 1913: 278, Hotta 1989 : 67, Moore 1957 : 186, Nakai 1948 : 12, Schumann 1900, Simmonds 1960 : 200.
Comments Musa gigantea C. E. O. Kuntze is at  

Cheesman 1947 considered M. gigantea Kuntze to be species dubia commenting "Musa gigantea Kuntze, Rev. Gen. 691 (1891). Placed by Schumann in the subgenus Physocaulis "not without hesitation". The plant described was in a Java garden, and said to be from Sumatra. The habit suggests an Ensete sp. but the description of the fruit suggests that the plant was virtually sterile, or else had received no pollen (which it would not if the lower flowers were female only and the plant was growing alone). The 8 - 10 small (1 - 3 mm.) and pale seeds in a 3 - 4-angled, scarcely fleshy fruit strongly suggest failure of fertilization. The must remain "species dubia" until more is known about the fruit and seed. Backer does not mention it in his excellent account of Musaceae in Flora van Java".  Backer did however, mention the plant in Brittonia (see below).

In his discussion of Musa ingens, Simmonds 1960 also mentions Musa gigantea and comments that Kuntze's description is not good and that the species needs to be recollected before it can be evaluated.

While serving as Director of Buitenzorg (Bogor) Botanical Gardens during WW II, Nakai tried to track it down.  "To get the real information of this banana I visited Palaken Salak tea-estate, where I could see successfully old servant born in 1882, who is serving there from his boyhood. At first, from the difficulty of language, he misunderstood me and brought us to the front of big Pisang Ambon (Musa paradisiaca var. mensaria) whose stem is about 7 meters high and the spike is 2 meters long. But, we could make him understand of my meaning. Then, he said, Ah! You mean that enormous Pisang! Please come this way. Thus saying he took us to the spot where giant banana stood before, and pointed exactly three spots where those giants had grown. According to the explanation of this decent honest servant, the stem of those banana attained 9 to ten meters high, 40 cm or more in diameter. Fruits were as big as his arm (about 5 to 6 cm in diameter). After they were dead, a neighbour made strongest ropes from the fibres of its false stem, etc. Dr. BACKER is sure of this is Musa qlauca (see Brittonia 111-1,77 (1938) [at Jstor], but such fragmental type specimen consists of pieces of few flowers makes one's easy mistake. I believe that Musa gigantea is still growing somewhere in Sumatra, whence those three stocks had been brought back by the late HOLLE, the former manager of the estate.

Nakai was aware of Cheesman's 1947 revival of the genus Ensete and obviously considered that that was where Musa gigantea belonged thus creating the new combination Ensete gigantea (sic) and placing it with Ensete glaucum in a new section he named Pruinensete.  Backer's comment in Brittonia was presumably the basis of Hotta's listing of Musa gigantea and Ensete gigantea as synonyms of Ensete glaucum.

The small seeds mentioned by Schumann and the enormous fruits mentioned by Nakai do not sound like an Ensete.

A plant known as Musa gigantea was (is?) in cultivation in the USA. Moore 1957 comments, "if some plants cultivated under this name are other than a large form of some species already known, it will be necessary to study them at maturity for satisfactory placement".

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last updated 30/04/2008