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a genus of perennial plants of the family Musaceae. Tall, sometimes giant, grasses with a thick rhizome and a short stem. The leaves are very large, occurring in sheaths that form a multilayered tube (the false stalk). The young leaves, and then a cluster resembling a huge raceme, break through this tube. The flowers are unisexual and bisexual. The fruit has many seeds and is berrylike and thick-skinned; in cultivated varieties the fruit is often seedless (the plants propagate only vegetatively) and reaches 15 cm in length and 3–4 cm in diameter. As many as 300 such fruits may grow on one axis, attaining a total weight of 50–60 kg. The above-ground part of the plant dies after fruition. There are about 60–70 species in the tropics and subtropics of Africa, Asia, and Australia.
Musa is one of the oldest cultivated plants; in tropical regions it is the most important food plant and the chief article of export. The hybrid thermophilic species Musa × paradisiaca and Musa × sapientum (the dessert varieties—the so-called plantain) and the relatively cold-resistant southern Chinese Musa nana (M. cavendishii) are the most widely cultivated. The cultivated Musa consists of 40 percent skin and 60 percent mealy, sweet pulp; the seeds are not developed. The pulp of the fresh fruit contains 14–22 percent sugars, 3–8 percent starch, and up to 1.5 percent protein. The aroma of the fruit is caused by isoamyl isovaler-ate and isoamyl acetate. The fruits are used in either fresh or dried form and in the preparation of banana flour, canned fruit, marmalade, syrup, and wine. Some species of Musa have fruits with a hard, mealy, nonsweet pulp; those are used mostly as fodder and are used as food only when cooked. An industrial species of Musa is Manila hemp (M. textilis), whose false stalks provide a light, strong fiber—also called Manila hemp (abaca)—used in making ships’ rigging, fishing nets, and such. Japanese banana, or decorative banana (basjoo), is grown in the USSR on the Black Sea shores of the Caucasus and Crimea as a decorative plant. Abyssinian banana (M. ensete), now more often attributed to the genus Ensete (E. ventricosum), is grown in Africa as a food and textile plant.
REFERENCESAlekseev, V. P. “Banan.” Biul. Vsesoiuznogo nauchno-issledovatel’skogo instituta chaia i subtropicheskikh kul’tur, 1955, no. 2.
Zhukovskii, P. M. Kul’turnye rasteniia i ikh sorodichi, 2nd ed. Leningrad, 1964.