Musa gracilis

Musa gracilis
R. E. Holttum ex E. E. Cheesman, Kew Bulletin 5 (2): 154 - 155 (1950).

Accepted name Musa gracilis R. E. Holltum ex E. E. Cheesman, Kew Bulletin 5 (2): 154-155 (1950).
Authorities Cheesman 1950 s.

The World Checklist of Monocotyledons lists Musa gracilis Holttum, Kew Bull. 5: 154 (1950) as an accepted name.

Section Callimusa
Distribution Peninsular Malaysia but now restricted to 2 small, separated populations in the districts of Endau-Rompin in south-east Pahang and Kemaman in south Trengganu up to and across the border with Kelantan.
Description Cheesman gives only Holttum's Latin diagnosis but says that it is distinguished "from M. violascens by its much smaller size [60 - 200 cm. high and 8 cm. in diameter at the base] deciduous bracts and longer, proportionately more slender fruits [10 cm. long, 2 - 2.5 cm. wide], which are never more than 4 to a hand, in one row. Corner describes the fruit of the type specimen as "light greenish white", Ridley those from the Tempayan river [in Malaysia] as glaucous, and those from G[unung] Pulai as having "longitudinal violet bands", Henderson those from Labis as "pale glaucous green". The bracts are apparently sometimes almost white, but always with some suffusion of violet-purple.

Simmonds adds the following additions to the description of the species : "female flowers, the styles green with white stigmas, staminodes green, ovules biseriate and about 180 per ovary ; fruit, the skin darkening somewhat from very pale green towards maturity, not yellow at ripeness, the flesh dead white ; seeds as M. violascens, variably neatly cylindrical-truncate or ovoid-cylindrical and variable also as to size of the osteole to the perisperm chamber opposite the hilum ; male bud short lived dying off before fruit maturity, about 3 times as long as broad, strongly imbricate for nearly half its length and broadest about the middle ; bracts fully deciduous borne on rachis insertions which are much narrower and more widely spaced than in M. violascens ; male flowers, the anthers fawny, bearing chalky white pollen.

The best key characters to distinguish this species from M. violascens are the small size of the plant, the few large uniseriate fruits and the slender deeply imbricate male bud broadest about the middle with narrower bract insertions. The deciduousness of the bracts mentioned by Holttum is hardly diagnostic, because M. violascens occasionally has this character".

References Cheesman 1950 s : 154, Hotta 1989, Ng 1984, Polunin 1988 (illus.), Saw & Sulaiman 1991, Simmonds 1956 : 488, Simmonds 1960 : 204, WCMC.
Comments Musa gracilis is obviously very close to Musa violascens but is maintained currently as a distinct species.

There is a confusing comment by Polunin that "M. gracilis is similar to M. violascens but has a spindle-shaped flowerhead with two flowers per bract". The difference is rather that M. gracilis has female flowers in one row while M. violascens has female flowers in two rows.

The status of the plant in the wild is vulnerable according the the World Conservation Monitoring Centre. However, it is highly probable that the plant known commercially as Musa ornata 'Leyte White' is in fact Musa gracilis.


There are two external images of Musa gracilis at
There is one external images of Musa gracilis at

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last updated 20/10/2008