Musa hookeri

Musa hookeri G. King MSS
Musa hookeri G. King MSS ex A. M. Cowan & J. M. Cowan, Trees of North Bengal, 135 (1929).
Musa hookeri
(G. King ex K. M. Schumann) A. M. Cowan & J. M. Cowan, Trees of North Bengal, 135 (1929).

Accepted name Musa sikkimensis W. S. Kurz, J. Agric. Hort. Soc. Ind. Part 1. 5 (3): 164 (1877) and N. W. Simmonds, Kew Bulletin 11 (3): 478 (1956).
Synonyms 1. Musa sapientum subsp. seminifera forma hookeri G. King MSS ex J. G. Baker, Ann. Bot. 7: 214 (1893) ; E. E. Cheesman Kew Bulletin 3 (3) : 326 (1948).
2. Musa sapientum subsp. seminifera var. hookeri G. King ex K. M. Schumann in A. Engler, Das Pflanzenreich (1912).
Authorities The authorities for the accepted name are Simmonds 1956 and Noltie 1994.

Synonym 1 is from Simmonds and 2 from Noltie; Hajra & Verma give none.

The World Checklist of Monocotyledons gives Musa hookeri (King ex Baker) Cowan, Trees N. Bengal: 135 (1929) and Musa x sapientum f. hookeri King ex Baker, Ann. Bot. (Oxford) 7: 214 (1893) as synonyms of Musa sikkimensis Kurz, J. Agric. Soc. India, n.s., 5: 164 (1878) which is listed as an accepted name.

Section Eumusa (Musa) 2
Distribution Sikkim to around 1667 metres according to Hajra & Verma and in Middle Hill Forest from 4,500 ft to 6,000 ft (1,370 metres to 1,828 metres) according to Cowan and Cowan.
Description Musa Hookeri G. King from Cowan & Cowan (1929); "Stem 10 - 14 ft. high, robust tinged with red, 14 - 18 inches in diameter. Young leaves and under sides of the midribs of the old leaves purplish. Seeds few, large, pulp hard, sweetish."

Musa hookeri G. King ex A. M. Cowan & J. M. Cowan from Hajra & Verma (1996); "Large perennial herbs with branching rhizomes. Pseudostems 3.6 - 4.5 m tall. Fruits compact, few, 4-5cm long. Sikkim, s.l. ; ca. 1667 m. Fl. & Fr. : March - Sept."
References Baker 1893 : 214, Cheesman 1948f : 327, Cowan & Cowan 1929 : 135, Hajra & Verma 1996 : 135, Simmonds 1956 : 478, Noltie 1994 : 180.
Comments The name Musa hookeri is known from an unpublished manuscript by Dr G King at Kew which was partially published by Baker in his Synopsis of the Genera and Species of Museae in 1893. I do not know the date of King's manuscript but it must have been preceded by Sulpiz Kurz's 1877 account of "The Banana" in which he listed and partially described Musa sikkimensis. Baker thought that King's M. hookeri was "probably M. sikkimensis Kurz" and although Cheesman demurred Simmonds states that it is "clearly this species". This synonymy is accepted also by Noltie.

The literature is now not entirely consistent however thanks to 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.

There is also confusion in the horticultural trade. In 1998 Toby Spanner introduced seed that was initially and unfortunately offered under the name Musa hookeri, this being the name under which the Indian seed collector (Ganesh Mani Pradhan) sent it. Following Noltie this seed was re-named M. sikkimensis but the name M. hookeri (sometimes M. hookerii) is still sometimes used by nurserymen.

Musa sikkimensis is variable in the extent and intensity of the red-purple variegation (barring) on the adaxial leaf surface of young plants.  This has give rise to informal names such as "Red Tiger" or "Red Flash" applied to different seedlots in the nursery trade.

After Musa basjoo, Musa sikkimensis is probably the most cold tolerant banana.

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last updated 30/04/2008