Musa laterita

Musa laterita E. E. Cheesman, Kew Bulletin 4 (3): 265 - 267 (1949).

Accepted name Musa laterita E. E. Cheesman, Kew Bulletin 4 (3): 265 - 267 (1949).
Authorities Cheesman 1949k

The World Checklist of Monocotyledons lists Musa laterita Cheesman, Kew Bull. 4: 265 (1949) as an accepted name.

Section Rhodochlamys
Distribution India, Burma (Myanmar).
Description Plant tillering freely, sending up suckers at long distances from the parent stem and forming only lax open stools. Pseudostems slender, 1 - 2 metres high, green, devoid of any perceptible wax bloom. Leaf blades up to about 1 metre 50 long and 40 cm. wide, medium dark green above, scarcely paler beneath, truncate at apex, narrowing rather gradually to an acute base and finally decurrent as moderately prominent petiole margins, which closely clasp the pseudostem at base and early become scarious at the region of junction ; midrib flushed red on the lower surface ; petioles 40 - 50 cm. long.

Inflorescence quite erect ; peduncle velvety with a dense minute puberulence ; first sterile bract usually a foliage leaf with a broadened petiole developing red colour, this followed by one sterile true bract 20 - 30 cm. long. Flowers of the basal bracts female, usually about 4 "hands" of 4 - 6 flowers each. Female flowers 7 - 8 cm. long overall, the perianth about as long as the ovary, free tepal ¼ to 1/3 as long as the compound tepal, the latter yellow, its lobes little darker in colour than the rest.

Male bud in advanced blooming ovate, the bracts slightly imbricate at the tip. Bracts bright brick-red, much the same colour within as without, slightly glaucous on the outside and rather strongly sulcate, without wax on the inside and transversely corrugated between the ridges.

Male flowers about 6 - 10 per bract in two rows ; compound tepal about 4 cm. long, 1.8 cm. wide, orange-yellow, its tip and lobes slightly darker, the lateral lobes 5 mm. long, with a minute dorsal appendage ; tree tepal scarcely more than 1 cm long, boat shaped, orbicular if flattened out, with a small apicula ; stamens as long as the compound tepal, the filaments a little longer than the anthers.

Fruit bunch very compact, the fruits almost appressed to the rachis. Individual fruits about 8 - 10 cm. long, 2 cm. in diameter (fresh), on a very short pedicel and with a short (0.5 cm.) but pronounced acumen ; ripening yellow and remaining strongly angled at full ripeness.

Seeds dull black, irregularly depressed-globose, smooth, 6 - 7 mm. across and 3 mm. high.

(Cheesman 1949 k).

References Champion 1967 : 41, Cheesman 1949k : 265, Häkkinen 2001,  Häkkinen 2007, Häkkinen & Sharrock 2001, Shanmugavellu et al 1992 : 20, 36, 38, 48, Simmonds 1962 : 64, Stover & Simmonds 1987 : 5.
Comments The name "laterita" was given to the species on account of its brick-red bracts, the colour of the tropical soil laterite.

Cheesman notes that the plant has a strong general resemblance to Musa ornata but, while it hybridises with it, it does not show a strong genetic affinity with that species and in other respects it approaches the section Eumusa species more closely than any other Rhodochlamys. The ability of the plant to hybridise with Musa ornata suggests one possible origin of some of the plants commonly but sometimes erroneously known in tropical horticulture as cultivars of Musa ornata. However the plants known in the horticultural trade as Musa ornata 'Bronze' and Musa ornata 'Red Salmon' are more or less pure Musa laterita.

Simmonds 1962 opines that "(the mysterious) Musa rubra [ ] is allied to (and may even be identical with) M. laterita." The illustration of Musa rubra in Curtis's Botanical Magazine of 1895 ( shows it to be remarkably similar to Musa laterita, including the stoloniferous habit.

The vegetative plant suckers freely but, unlike most Musa, the suckers are borne at the end of long rhizomes. So instead of the typical clumped appearance of most bananas, Musa laterita has a rather open habit. In a greenhouse bed or in a garden in the tropics Musa laterita is a rather unruly plant that soon "travels" from its planting place. Fortunately the plant is quite amenable to pot culture where the long rhizomes will not be apparent until the plant is re-potted.

Chromosome number n = 11.


There are 10 images of Musa laterita.

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last updated 01/05/2008