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Musa basjoo Sieb.

Modern name

Musa basjoo Siebold & Zucc. ex Iinuma

Stems cylindrical, slightly tapering upwards, 6 to 9 ft high, as many or more inches wide at the base, crowned by four to six leaves. Leaves oblong, bright green, the largest 8 or 9 ft long, and 2 ft wide, the smallest, one-third those dimensions, all have the close parallel veins springing at nearly right angles from the midrib that are characteristic of all the musas; stalk 6 to 12 in. long, winged. Flowers borne on a stout arching inflorescence proceeding from the apex of the stem, the main-stalk of which is 1 to 112 ft long and 2 in. or more in diameter. The flowers (yellowish, cylindrical, of no beauty) open successively over a long season in clusters, each cluster consisting of two rows enclosed in the early stages by a large, concave, leathery bract. Fruit banana-like, 3 or 4 in. long, about 1 in. thick, three-angled, attaining full-size at the base whilst the terminal flower-clusters are still expanding. Bot. Mag., t. 7182.

It is doubtful if this plant has a claim to notice in these pages, for there is nothing woody about it, even at the root. Yet it is tree-like, has a clean stem and persistent evergreen foliage. It is a native of the Ryukyu archipelago, and was cultivated for its fibre in S. Japan, whence it was introduced by Charles Maries about 1881, when collecting for Messrs Veitch, and was first grown out-of-doors in this country at the Coombe Wood nursery in Surrey. It will live in the open air at Kew for a few years but becomes more enfeebled each year and finally succumbs. Dr Wilfrid Fox grew it successfully a few miles south of Godalming, but it is only really at its best in the south-west, where it thrives and often bears fruits (see: E. Thurston, Trees and Shrubs of Cornwall, plate XXIV). In general appearance it is a smaller replica of the common banana tree and quite unlike anything else in the open air in this country. It has therefore considerable interest, but otherwise it is not worth its place in the garden except in some out-of-the-way spot. It must be given a sheltered place or the wind will tear the leaves to ribbons. Although with wind protection it may be a handsome and really striking object for a few late summer months, it usually wears a dismal aspect in our climate for the rest of the year with its dead or tattered foliage. Given shelter from wind and a sufficiently mild climate, its only other requirement is a rich soil to grow in. It can be increased by its sucker growths.



Other species in the genus

[No species article available]