Musa velutina

Musa velutina H. (A.) Wendland & C. G. O. Drude, Gartenflora, 65, t. 823 (1875).

Accepted name Musa velutina H. (A.) Wendland & C. G. O. Drude, Gartenflora, 65, t. 823 (1875).
Synonyms ? Musa dasycarpa W. S. Kurz, J. Agric. Hort. Soc. Ind. 14: 295 - 301 (1867).
Authorities The accepted name is from Cheesman 1949 j.

The synonym is from Cheesman 1949 j, Simmonds 1960 and Hajra & Verma 1996, see comments below.

The World Checklist of Monocotyledons lists Musa velutina H.Wendl. & Drude, Gartenflora 24: 65 (1875) as an accepted name and Musa dasycarpa Kurz, J. Agric. Soc. India 14: 301 (1867), nom. subnud. as a synonym.

Section Rhodochlamys
Distribution Assam, N. E. India.
Description "Plant stooling freely ; pseudostems up to 1.5 m. high [but much taller in some forms], 7 cm. in diameter at base, often smaller, yellowish-green, devoid of wax ; leaf-blades up to 1 m. long, 35 cm. wide, truncate at apex, unequal-sided at base, one side more or less rounded, the other broadly wedge-shaped ; lamina shining dark green above, paler beneath but scarcely glaucous, slightly bronze-flushed beneath when very young, the flush disappearing as the leaf matures ; midribs green above, red beneath ; petioles up to 45 cm. long, distinctly margined, the margins at first almost meeting over the adaial groove, later erect, expanded at base into wings more than 1 cm. wide, very soon becoming scarious.

Inflorescence quite erect, the peduncle red, 2 cm. thick, heavily clothed with white pubescence ; last leaf with a broadened petiole developing red colour, following this a sterile bract 15 - 20 cm. long which persists ; basal flowers hermaphrodite, the fertile "hands" 2 - 4, upper flowers male.

Hermaphrodite flowers 3 - 5 per bract in a single row ; ovary 3 - 3.5 cm. long, 1 - 1.5 cm. wide, rather acutely trigonous or 4-sided according to position, densely pubescent ; compound tepal 3 cm. long, bright orange with a pink flush on the back, its lateral lobes 4 mm. long with a filiform dorsal appendage 3 (or sometimes up to 5) mm. long, the centre lobes broader, shorter, and without appendage ; free tepal nearly as long as the compound, white, oval, emarginate at apex ; stamens usually less than five fertile, one or more being vestigial, the fully developed ones as long as the style.

Male bud more or less turbinate, acute or acuminate, commonly aborting after producing about a dozen "hands" of male flowers. Bracts convolute at the tip, pale pink on the outer surface, not conspicuously sulcate, darker within ; one raised at a time, strongly revolute on fading, early deciduous.

Male flowers about 5 per bract, generally in one row but with a tendency when more numerous to form 2 rows ; compound tepal 3.5 cm. long, orange-yellow, with a pink flush on the back, rudimentary ovary also pink, lobes of tepal orange, barely 2 mm. long the lateral ones with a minute dorsal appendage ; free tepal 3.5 cm long, 1 cm. wide, oblong, sometimes jagged-toothed towards the apex, with a short broad acumen ; stamens finally exserted, their filaments longer than the anthers.

Fruits bright pink, about 7 cm. long, 3 - 4 cm. in diameter, pubescent like the peduncle, broadly truncate at apex, rounded and subsessile at base. Pericarp 3 - 4 mm. thick, splitting at maturity and separating in irregular strips from apex to base, exposing the central mass of white pulp and seeds.

Seeds black, tuberculate, irregularly angulate-depressed, 4 - 6 mm. across, 2 - 3 mm. high".

(Cheesman 1949 j).

References Argent 1984, Baker 1893 : 222, Champion 1967 : 43, Cheesman 1949 j, Griffiths 1994, GRIN, Hajra & Verma 1996, Häkkinen & Sharrock 2001, Hore et al 1992, Huxley 1992, INIBAP, Kurz 1867, Kurz 1877 : 163, Mobot Tropicos, RHS 1956, Simmonds 1960.
Comments M. velutina and M. dasycarpa are probably one and the same but the latter was not properly typified so one cannot be sure. In his 1867 paper on Indian bananas, Kurz makes the entry "12. M. dasycarpa Kurz. Fruits hairy (Assam)". Kurz's comment on this note in his 1877 paper is more verbose but regrettably no more informative; "I gave a brief resummé [sic] of the Indian bananas in this journal Vol. XIV. (1867), where I briefly characterised M. dasycarpa then known only in fruit". A little later in the same paper, listing species chronologically, Kurz notes that "Wendland and Drude published in Regel's Gartenzeitung for 1875, a supposed new species which they call M. velutina". It seems likely that Kurz recognised that M. velutina was the same as his M. dasycarpa but he had no time to comment further upon this matter; "I cannot embark here upon a sifting of the literature and synomy [sic], for such would be of too technical a character, and will be published in my revision of the Musaceae under preparation". Alas, it was not to be and the unfortunate Kurz died in Penang shortly after writing those words leaving it to Cheesman some 60 years later to revise the Musaceae. In the meantime, Baker (1893) reduced M. dasycarpa to a synonym of M. velutina which was a bit odd because if he thought they were the same he should have made the relationship the other way around; Kurz's name has priority by 8 years. The type specimen of M. dasycarpa is in Calcutta but there is a drawing supposedly of it at RBG Kew. According to Cheesman "the drawing strongly suggests identity with M. velutina" but the cautious Cheesman was not prepared to confirm the synonymy and wondered if there might be other hairy fruited bananas in Assam. None have been reported so far but Musa velutina is still regarded as the accepted name. A modern examination of the Calcutta type specimen of M. dasycarpa would presumably settle the matter.

Musa velutina is one of only six bananas currently known in which the fruit splits (or dehisces or is schizocarpic) on maturity, the others are Musa hirta from Borneo, Musa johnsii from Papua (Irian Jaya), Musa lolodensis and Musa schizocarpa from Papua New Guinea, and Musella lasiocarpa from China and northern Indo-China.

Introduced into U.K. horticulture about 1875, Musa velutina is enjoying something of a revival today. It is an attractive, easily grown pot plant and capable of bearing its pink inflorescence at about 1 m. tall.

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last updated 02/05/2008