Musa mannii

Musa mannii
H. Wendland ex J. G. Baker in J. D. Hooker, The Flora of British India 6: 293 (1892) and H. Wendland ex J. D. Hooker, Curtis's botanical magazine 119. Ser. 3. (49). t. 7311. (1893).

Accepted name Musa mannii H. Wendland ex J. G. Baker in J. D. Hooker, The Flora of British India 6: 293 (1892) and H. Wendland ex J. D. Hooker, Curtis's botanical magazine 119 (49). t. 7311. (1893).
Authorities Baker 1892, Hooker 1893.

The World Checklist of Monocotyledons lists Musa mannii H.Wendl. ex Baker in J.D.Hooker, Fl. Brit. India 6: 263 (1892) as an accepted name.

Section Rhodochlamys
Distribution Assam, N. E. India.
Description "Stem slender, cylindrical, 2 ft. long, 1 in. diam., tinged with black. Leaves few, spreading ; petiole 6 - 10 in. long ; blade oblong, green, unequally rounded at the base, 2 - 2½ ft. long, 9 - 10 in. broad. Peduncle with spike erect, ½ ft. long ; female flowers in three clusters of three flowers each, their bracts deciduous ; male bracts crowded, oblong, pale crimson, 3 - 4 in. long. Calyx pale yellow, 1½ in. long ; petal much shorter, truncate. Assam. Described from a specimen that flowered in the Palm House at Kew, March 1893".

(Baker 1893).

"Stoloniferous: sts. slender, cylindrical, tinged with black, 2 - 3 ft. high, 3½ in. circum. at base : spike erect, 6 in. long; female fls. in 3 clusters of 3 fls. each, their bracts deciduous; male bracts crowded, pale crimson, 3 - 4 in. long; calyx pale yellow, 1½ in. long : free petal much shorter : fr. small, 3 - 4 in. long, fusiform with a broad truncate apex. Assam. B.M. 7311. - Intro. into Eu. in 1893, and into U. S. in 1901".

(Ricker 1937).

"Pseudostems of this small species are about 70 cm. high, 2.5 - 9 cm. in diameter, and tinged with black. Green leaves with linear oblong blades to 60 cm. long, 18 cm. wide, have petioles 20 cm. long. The lax, smooth inflorescence, about 15 cm. long in the flowering portion, is somewhat inclined but neither horizontal or recurved. Bracts are rose-colored, subtending yellow male flowers 5 cm. long. The female flowers are 3 in a single row in each of 3 clusters. Mature fruit is greenish, about 5 cm. long, filled with thin pulp and many black seeds about 6 mm. long."

(Moore 1957).

Plant height 60 cm. to 1.5 m. Pseudostem about 70 cm. tall, slender, stoloniferous, tinged or blotched black. Leaves oblong 75 - 80 cm. long, 18 - 20 cm. wide, green, midrib red. Inflorescence erect to 14cm, bracts crimson to purplish-red, slightly grooved, not curled back as is usual in Musa. Flowers yellow, females flowers in clusters of 3. Fruit green, angled, small.

(RHS 1956 and Huxley 1992).

References Argent 1984, Cheesman 1947b: 110, Griffiths 1994, Häkkinen 2007, Hooker 1893, Hore et al 1992, Huxley 1992, Mobot Tropicos, Moore 1957 : 183, NBGB, Rao 1994, RHS 1956, Ricker 1937 : 2079, Simmonds 1960.
Comments The name Musa mannii was first mentioned in a manuscript by Dr. H. Wendland of the Herrenhausen Botanical Gardens, Hanover who provided a plant to Kew in 1885.  The manuscript may be no more than a list of plants he supplied to Kew.  The name was first published in volume 6 of The Flora of British India and although the volume date is 1894 the part volume (18 pp. 225 - 448) was published in July 1892.  After the entry for Musa sanguinea there is a section titled "Imperfectly known species allied to M. sanguinea" of which no. 4 is

M. Mannii, Wendl. mss.; differs from M. sanguinea in the shorter stem and longer leaves. - Assam.

This entry from The Flora of British India 6: 293, is at  

In 1893 J. D. Hooker provided a Latin description and an illustration in Curtis's botanical magazine (vol. 119. Ser. 3. (49). t. 7311).  This is at et seq.  Since the first publication was so brief and uninformative it seems reasonable to associate Hooker's description and illustration with the establishment of Musa mannii.

Also in 1893, J. G. Baker published a description in English as part of "A synopsis of the Genera & Species of Museae" in the Annals of Botany "from a specimen that flowered in the palm-house at Kew, March 1893".  Given that Wendland gave the plant in 1885 and it flowered annually according to Hooker it took him and Baker some time to get round to describing it and it is odd that the description of the plant in The Flora of British India is so brief.

Moore 1957 comments that "although plants are currently offered under this name, their identity is not certain. The species itself has never been properly described by contemporary standards and its relatives in far north-eastern India are poorly understood. According to Simmonds (in correspondence), hybrids between species of this alliance [Rhodochlamys] produce individuals that could easily but mistakenly be considered distinct species. Thus Musa Mannii must remain, at least for the time being, an enigmatic species". Writing in 1984 Argent commented that this is an "imperfectly understood small species up to 1.3 m. high with purplish-red bracts that do not curl back".

The species has recently become available again. But is the plant available today really Musa mannii?

I have grown plants from three different sources and have seen the plant at RHS Wisley. Plants from all sources look similar but none convincingly match the description given by Baker and from which later authors have drawn. Cheesman (KB 4 (3) : 266 (1949)) has commented that Baker seems sometimes to conflate descriptions but since Baker described M. mannii from a plant that flowered at Kew one must take his description at face value. Moore too also seems to have known the plant. Neither Baker nor Moore mention reddish, ruffled, somewhat scarious wings at the "shoulder" or base the petiole but these are characteristic of all cultivated plants that I have seen. It seems unlikely that such an obvious vegetative character should have been missed both by Baker and Moore. Further, such wings are, according to Cheesman (1948) and to Argent (pers. comm.), characteristic of section Callimusa plants whereas Musa mannii is in section Rhodochlamys.

Harold Moore's comment in 1957 about Musa mannii seems valid today, "although plants are currently offered under this name, their identity is not certain".

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last updated 01/05/2008