Musa mexicana

Musa mexicana
Eizi Matuda, Madroño 10 (6): 166 - 169 (1950).

Accepted name Musa ornata W. Roxburgh, Hortus Bengalensis, 19 (1814) and Flora Indica I: 666 (1820-1824).

The World Checklist of Monocotyledons gives Musa mexicana Matuda, Madroño 10: 167 (1950) as a synonym of Musa ornata Roxb., Fl. Ind. 2: 488 (1824) which is listed as an accepted name.
Distribution Chiapas, Mexico.
Description The inflorescence is described as being erect with rose-lilac bracts, pale internally and there is a figure (Fig. 1) showing the details of the flowers.
References Bassler 1926, Cheesman 1949b, Gray Index, Index Kewensis, Matuda 1950, Moore 1957 : 183.
Comments It would be very interesting if there was an extant Mexican Musa but there isn't.

The paper gives a full Latin diagnosis of the taxon and acknowledgements are made to staff at NYBG and UC (Chairman of the Board of editors of Madroño) who reviewed the paper.

The following are extracts from the paper.

Type. Brookside at about 100m. altitude, in a wet sunny field near Colonia Hidalgo, Acacoyagua, Chiapas, June 5, 1948, Matuda 18320 (Matuda Herbarium; isotypes at the Instituto de Biología de la Universidad Nacional de México and at the Chicago Natural History Museum.

Local name; Platano silvestre. Occasional, being nether common nor yet rare, and mostly in the wild state. It is never found at elevations below 100 meters, being evidently restricted to a belt between 100 and 300 metres above sea level, and always close to the banks of brooks. It is quite generally distributed between these elevations in the District of Soconusco, and it is sometimes cultivated by the natives along plantation-borders for its attractive rosy bracts.

This new species seems very close to Musa rosacea Jacq., but it differs from this in its longer perigonia, and in having six flowers uniseriate in the axils of single bracts, very wide acuminate petals and long stout petioles.

Musa mexicana is not only noteworthy as a novelty but is, in addition, the first record of the occurrence of the genus Musa in the native wild flora of the American continent. All the other species so far known have originated in southeastern Asia.

This appears to be a carefully written paper but the reference to Musa rosacea Jacq. immediately raises doubts. Musa rosacea N. J. von Jacquin is a member of Musa (AAB group) - see link - so Matuda cannot mean that plant. What Matuda probably means is Musa rosacea Hort. non Jacq. which is an invalid name commonly applied to Musa ornata Roxb.

Cheesman 1949b comments that M. ornata is a tolerant plant, of moderate size, and fairly ornamental, and by virtue of those characters has been grown in gardens in many parts of the tropics. The plant was in Mauritius before 1805 and so must have begun to travel several years before it was botanically described in 1824. As evidence of its travels Cheesman quotes Bassler 1926 who found Musa ornata "growing on the edge of an Indian banana plantation on "the far upper edge of the Amazonian plain of eastern Peru", in so remote a locality that he at first wondered whether he had come upon an indigenous American Musa". This instance is also quoted by Moore 1957 querying the status of M. mexicana.

In the light of the above it would seem quite probable that Matuda's plant is an escape from cultivation rather than the other way around. The differences cited by Matuda to distinguish M. mexicana would seem to be within the natural range of variability of M. ornata or may represent introgression from another species. Matuda's careful documentation of localities where he saw the plant and herbarium specimens should facilitate follow-up.

home     next

last updated 01/05/2008