Musa ornata

Musa ornata
W. Roxburgh, Hortus Bengalensis: 19 (1814) and Flora Indica 2: 488 (1824).

Accepted name Musa ornata W. Roxburgh, Hortus Bengalensis, 19 (1814) and Flora Indica 2: 488 (1824).
Synonyms These "synonyms" are all invalid and based on mistakes rather than formal taxonomic revision:

1. Musa rosacea N. J. von Jacquin, , Plantarum rarorium Horti Caesari Schoenbrunnensis 4: 22 & t. 445 (1804) and Fragm. t. 132 fig. 4 (1808).
2. Musa speciosa M. Tenore, Index Seminum Horto Bot. Neapol. 16 (1829).
3. Musa carolinae A. Sterler, Hortus Nymphenburgensis, seu Enumeratio plantarum in horto regio Nymphenburgensi cultarum. 109 (1821).
4. Musa rosea J. G. Baker, Annals of Botany (Oxford) 7: 221 (1893) and M. Häkkinen, Novon 16 (4): 492 – 496 (2006).
5. Musa salaccensis H. Zollinger,  Syst. Verz. Indisch. Archip. 74 (1854) nomen nudum & Pl. Exsic. Jav. no. 1353 (1854?).
6. Musa rosacea Hort. non N. J. von Jacquin.
7. Musa mexicana E. Matuda, Madroño 10 (6): 166 - 169 (1950).
8. Musa rubra Hort. ex E. T. Steudel, Nomencl. Bot., ed. 2, 2: 167 (1841), nom. inval.
Authorities The accepted name is according to Cheesman 1949.

The "synonyms" are from:

1. Baker 1893, Cheesman 1949, Argent 1984.
2. & 3. Baker 1893.
4. & 5. Cheesman 1949.
6. Griffiths 1994, Huxley 1992.
7. Moore 1957.
8. WCM

The World Checklist of Monocotyledons lists Musa ornata Roxb., Fl. Ind. 2: 488 (1824) as an accepted name and Musa carolinae Sterler, Hort. Nymphenb.: 109 (1821), provisional synonym, Musa speciosa Ten., Index Seminum (NAP) 1829: 16 (1829), Musa rubra Steud., Nomencl. Bot., ed. 2, 2: 167 (1841), nom. inval. and Musa mexicana Matuda, Madroño 10: 167 (1950) as synonyms.

Section Rhodochlamys
Distribution Bangladesh, Burma, India (Andhara Pradesh, (Assam, Mizoram, Anon 2002))
Description Plant stooling freely ; pseudostems slender, 1-3 metres high, rarely much more than 10 cm. in diameter at base, upper parts at first pale green, heavily waxy, later developing black blotches.

Leaf blades rather narrow oblong, up to 2 m. long, 35 cm. wide, truncate at apex, unequal-sided at base (one side rounded, the other more wedge-shaped), medium green on both surfaces, very lightly glaucous above, lightly so beneath ; midribs often flushed with red beneath ; petioles up to 60 cm. long, with definite margins (3 - 5 mm. wide) which are erect or slightly spreading above, clasping the pseudostem at base, not becoming scarious.

Inflorescence quite erect ; peduncle 2 - 3 cm. thick, glabrous ; sterile bracts usually 2, the first a shortened foliage leaf with broadened and coloured petiole, the second a fully coloured true bract, up to 30 cm. long ; basal flowers female, the number of female " hands " varying up to about 7, upper flowers male.

Female flowers 3 - 5 per bract, in a single row ; ovary 4 cm. long, green ; compound tepal 3.5 cm. long, deep orange-yellow, its lateral lobes ovate, 5 mm. long, with a minute dorsal appendage or none ; free tepal 3 cm. long, translucent white, ovate-oblong, with a rather obtuse yellow acumen ; staminodes one-third to one-half the length of the style ; style green, about 3 cm. long.

Male bud in advanced blooming top-shaped, acute, the bracts convolute or slightly imbricate at the tip. Bracts pale pink outside, yellow at the extreme tip, sulcate, slightly glaucous, the inner surface shining, of the same colour or slightly darker. Bracts lanceolate, the first about 10 cm. long, 5 cm. wide, those produced in very advanced blooming, much smaller. Usually only one bract lifted at a time (occasionally two) ; bracts soon deciduous, not revolute on fading.

Male flowers 3 - 5 per bract in a single row ; compound tepal 3.5 - 4 cm. long, deep orange in the upper half paling to nearly white at base, its lobes similar to those of the female flower ; free tepal 3 - 3.5 cm. long, 1 cm. wide, oblong, with an acute acumen ; stamens at first as long as the free tepal, at length slightly exserted, their filaments longer than the anthers, the anthers purple.

Fruit bunch compact, the " fingers " strongly inflexed to stand nearly parallel with the rachis. Individual fruit 6 - 8 cm. long, 1.5 - 2 cm. in diameter, obscurely 4 - 5-angled, rounded at base to a short (5 - 7 mm.) pedicel, narrowed at apex into a short, broad, truncate acumen, which is rather sharply 4-sided at maturity. Pericarp about 1 mm. thick, pale somewhat greenish yellow at full ripeness ; pulp white. Seeds black, warty, irregularly angulate-depressed, 5 mm. across and 3 mm. high.

(Cheesman 1949h).

Cheesman acknowledged that his description "may not in all details cover the whole species". Sundararaj found Musa ornata in India proper in 1952 (Araku valley in Andhara Pradesh) and found that Cheesman's description fitted it very well (Sundararaj & Balasubramanyam 1971). But see comments below on the possible true "origin" of M. ornata.

References Anon 2002, Argent 1984, Backer & Bakhuizen 1968, Baker 1893: 219, Cheesman 1949h, Fawcett 1913 : 270 (as M. rosacea), Graf Exotica (as M. rosacea), Graf Tropica, Griffiths 1994, GRIN, Hakkinen 2007, Häkkinen & Sharrock 2001, Hore et al 1992, Huxley 1992, INIBAP, Mobot Tropicos, Moore 1957 : 183, Sagot 1887 : 330, Shepherd 1999 : 68, Simmonds 1962, Steudel 1841 (, Sundararaj & Balasubramanyam 1971.
Comments Roxburgh's description of Musa ornata from the 1832 edition of Flora Indica is at   

This species is widely distributed in cultivation in the tropics but is frequently misnamed.

According to Cheesman the origin of the confusion was a note appended by Nathaniel Wallich to the original description of M. ornata in Flora Indica in which he states "this is probably M. rosacea Jacq." It seems that Wallich, in editing Flora Indica after Roxburgh's death, made an honest mistake but the mistake was so commonly repeated that the synonymy of M. ornata and M. rosacea came to be accepted as fact, for example, by A. B. Graf in his Exotica, and by the author of the Musa entry in RHS 1956 who gives a nice description of M. ornata under the name M. rosacea.  Other authors such as Steudel were aware of Wallich's mistake.

Iteration of this mistake in horticultural texts led gradually to the name M. rosacea being de-graded simply to an alternative name to M. ornata. In that sense the name used in horticultural circles came to mean something quite different to von Jacquin's original intention. This de-graded form of the name is referred to as M. rosacea Hort. non Jacq. in Huxley 1992 and Griffiths 1994.

Cheesman also notes that Musa salaccensis H. Zollinger is sometimes given as a synonym of Musa ornata W. Roxburgh but it is not; as Cheesman notes the two are in different sections of Musa. The confusion arose because Zollinger when naming his species added in brackets "(ornata Roxb.?)" which given the superficial similarity of the two was a reasonable query at the time according to Cheesman. Miquel in his Flora van Nederlandisch Indie put it the other way around and thereafter certain later authors added Musa ornata Roxb. to the synonymy of Musa salaccensis.

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 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". The plant has also become naturalised in parts of Mexico where it has been mistakenly identified as a distinct species, M. mexicana Matuda. Seed and seedlings offered commercially under the invalid name of Musa violacea seem also to be referable to Musa ornata or possibly to a Musa ornata x Musa velutina hybrid.

The relative ease with which the section Rhodochlamys species Musa ornata and Musa velutina cross may be a manifestation of a much deeper relationship. Simmonds (1962, p. 61) commenting on the Rhodochlamys species M. laterita, M. ornata, M. sanguinea and M. velutina thought it "not impossible that one or more of the four species assumed here to be "good" may be of hybrid origin". Shepherd (1999, p. 68) considers it a "near certainty" that M. ornata is in fact "a relic of a hybrid swarm between M. flaviflora and M. velutina!" (Shepherd's emphasis).

Musa ornata cultivars

Listed as a Famine Food.

Musa ornata has been awarded an AGM by the RHS but it is probably quite difficult to find the true species.

home     next          With acknowledgements to Timothy Chapman.

last updated 02/05/2008