Musa liukiuensis

Musa liukiuensis (J. Matsumura) T. Makino ex H. Kuroiwa, Botanical Magazine (Tokyo) 14: 141 (1900) et (J. Matsumura) T. Makino, Botanical Magazine (Tokyo) 26: 181 (1912).

Accepted name Musa balbisiana L. A. Colla, Memoria della Reale Accademia delle Scienze di Torino 25 : 384 (1820). [Memoria sul genera Musa e monografia del Medesimo 56 (1820).] and E. E. Cheesman, Kew Bulletin 3 (1): 14 (1948).
Synonyms Musa sapientum var. liukiuensis J. Matsumura, Bot. Mag., Tokyo 11: 69 (1897).
Musa textilis var. liukiuensis (J. Matsumura) J. Matsumura, Mem. Fac. Sci. Taihoku Imp. Univ. 11(Bot. 4): 568 (1934).
Musa liukiuensis
(J. Matsumura) T. Makino ex H. Kuroiwa, Bot. Mag. (Tokyo) 14: 141 (1900).
Musa liukiuensis (J. Matsumura) T. Makino, Bot. Mag., Tokyo 26: 180 - 182. (1912).
Authorities The accepted name is from Walker 1936 and Hatusima 1975.  The synonyms are from the literature.

The World Checklist of Monocotyledons lists Musa liukiuensis (Matsum.) Makino ex Kuroiwa, Bot. Mag. (Tokyo) 14: 141 (1900), Musa x sapientum var. liukiuensis Matsum., Bot. Mag. (Tokyo) 26: 180 (1912) and Musa textilis var. liukiuensis (Matsum.) Matsum., Mem. Fac. Sci. Taihoku Imp. Univ. 11(Bot. 4): 568 (1934) as synonyms of Musa balbisiana var. balbisiana which is given as the accepted name.

Section Eumusa (Musa) 2
Distribution Japan (Ryukyu Islands) introduced
References GRIN, Jarret 1987, Matsumera 1897 : 69, Matsumura 1934 : 568, Kuroiwa 1900 : 141, Makino 1912, Mobot Tropicos, Moore 1957 : 181.
Comments Following von Siebold it is commonly believed that Musa basjoo is the banana from the Ryukyu Islands of Japan cultivated for fibre production from which a cloth is woven.  In fact the banana cultivated on the Ryukyu's for fibre production, the thread banana or ito-basho is a form of Musa balbisiana.

When von Siebold coined the name Musa basjoo the Ryukyu Islands were not part of Japan and he had not visited them.  The first treatment of the flora of the Ryukyus per se came just two years after they were incorporated (annexed) into Japan. With first-hand knowledge of the plants of the islands, Jinzô Matsumura published a set of notes on some Ryukyu plants in 1897. In this publication, Matsumura formally described just one banana, which he named Musa sapientum var. liu-kiuensis. Matsumura remarked that he couldn't find M. basjoo in the Ryukyus.

Matsumura did not mention any use for M. sapientum var. liu-kiuensis but that it is the ito-basho is confirmed by the continuity of references to the taxon in the literature. In 1934, Matsumura re-classified M. sapientum var. liu-kiuensis as M. textilis var. liukiuensis (Matsumura 1934). Musa textilis or abaça is an important fibre banana from the Philippines and the source of Manila hemp, still used today for such diverse uses as marine cordage and tea bags. It might seem reasonable to associate two significant fibre bananas but in truth they are very different plants. To take just one character, with its sulcate, polished bracts M. textilis is a member of section Australimusa whereas the plant described by Matsumura has the glaucous bracts of section Eumusa (Musa). In 1900 the combination Musa liukiuensis (Matsum.) Makino appears in a paper by Kuroiwa (Kuroiwa 1900). It seems that this can be read as an expression of intent on the part of Makino to elevate the plant to species status but it was another twelve years before he formalised this (Makino 1912).

The true identity of the Japanese Fibre Banana became known only in the aftermath of Japan’s defeat in WWII when the Ryukyu Islands came under the control of the United States Civil Administration of the Ryukyu Islands (USCAR). USCAR brought to Okinawa Egbert H. Walker, a staff member of the Department of Botany, Smithsonian Institution who was in charge of the Serviceman’s Collecting Program (SCP) in which US forces members were encouraged to collect and submit botanical and other specimens. But Walker was no desk-bound administrator of the SCP. He was an accomplished field botanist and developed a thorough knowledge of the Ryukyu flora. His work, during which he personally collected over 7,000 plant specimens on Okinawa and neighbouring islands, culminated in his Flora of Okinawa (Walker 1976). Walker made no mention of M. basjoo in this work but did include the ito-basho, Musa liukiuensis, after the treatment of which he commented:

“Seeds from plants [of Musa liukiuensis] in Oku [village in northern Okinawa] were grown in Kingston, Jamaica by the Banana Breeding Scheme of the Banana Board. The seed, seedlings and flowers were reported in 1973 to be identical with those of Musa balbisiana Colla.”

One can only speculate why having made such a comment Walker refrained formally from reducing Musa liukiuensis. Hatusima (1975) adds a little to Walker’s comments and does reduce M. liukiuensis:

"Recently, as a result of Walker's agricultural experiments, it has been understood that Ryukyu basho is the same as Musa balbisiana Colla - M. liukiuensis Mak. (1900) syn. nov. fide Walker. Distribution: Java. We have come to understand that Ryukyu basho is the type indigenous to Java named above. It is likely that it was introduced into Ryukyu in the distant past as a result of searching for fibres."

For more information on Musa balbisiana on the Ryukyus see Katrien Hendrickx's book.

home     next

last updated 01/05/2008