A banana is an elongated, edible fruit – botanically a berry[1] – produced by several kinds of large herbaceous flowering plants in the genus Musa. In some countries, cooking bananas are called plantains, distinguishing them from dessert bananas. The fruit is variable in size, color, and firmness, but is usually elongated and curved, with soft flesh rich in starch covered with a rind, which may have a variety of colors when ripe. The fruits grow upward in clusters near the top of the plant. Almost all modern edible seedless (parthenocarp) bananas come from two wild species – Musa acuminata and Musa balbisiana. Most cultivated bananas are M. acuminata, M. balbisiana, or hybrids of the two.

Musa species are native to tropical Indomalaya and Australia; they were probably domesticated in New Guinea. They are grown in 135 countries, primarily for their fruit, and to a lesser extent to make banana paper and textiles, while some are grown as ornamental plants. The world's largest producers of bananas in 2022 were India and China, which together accounted for approximately 26% of total production. Bananas are eaten raw or cooked in recipes varying from curries to banana chips, fritters, fruit preserves, or simply baked or steamed.

Worldwide, there is no sharp distinction between dessert "bananas" and cooking "plantains": this works well enough in the Americas and Europe, but it breaks down in Southeast Asia where many more kinds of bananas are grown and eaten. The term "banana" is applied also to other members of the genus Musa, such as the scarlet banana (Musa coccinea), the pink banana (Musa velutina), and the Fe'i bananas. Members of the genus Ensete, such as the snow banana (Ensete glaucum) and the economically important false banana (Ensete ventricosum) of Africa are sometimes included. Both genera are in the banana family, Musaceae.

Banana plantations are subject to damage by parasitic nematodes and insect pests, and to fungal and bacterial diseases, one of the most serious being Panama disease which is caused by a Fusarium fungus. This and black sigatoka threaten the production of Cavendish bananas, the main kind eaten in the Western world, which is a triploid Musa acuminata. Plant breeders are seeking new varieties, but these are difficult to breed given that commercial varieties are seedless. To enable future breeding, banana germplasm is conserved in multiple gene banks around the world.



The banana plant is the largest herbaceous flowering plant.[2] All the above-ground parts of a banana plant grow from a structure called a corm.[3] Plants are normally tall and fairly sturdy with a treelike appearance, but what appears to be a trunk is actually a pseudostem composed of multiple leaf-stalks (petioles). Bananas grow in a wide variety of soils, as long as it is at least 60 centimetres (2.0 ft) deep, has good drainage and is not compacted.[4] They are among the fastest growing of all plants, with daily surface growth rates recorded from 1.4 square metres (15 sq ft) to 1.6 square metres (17 sq ft).[5][6]

The leaves of banana plants are composed of a stalk (petiole) and a blade (lamina). The base of the petiole widens to form a sheath; the tightly packed sheaths make up the pseudostem, which is all that supports the plant. The edges of the sheath meet when it is first produced, making it tubular. As new growth occurs in the centre of the pseudostem, the edges are forced apart.[3] Cultivated banana plants vary in height depending on the variety and growing conditions. Most are around 5 m (16 ft) tall, with a range from 'Dwarf Cavendish' plants at around 3 m (10 ft) to 'Gros Michel' at 7 m (23 ft) or more.[7] Leaves are spirally arranged and may grow 2.7 metres (8.9 ft) long and 60 cm (2.0 ft) wide.[1] When a banana plant is mature, the corm stops producing new leaves and begins to form a flower spike or inflorescence. A stem develops which grows up inside the pseudostem, carrying the immature inflorescence until eventually it emerges at the top.[3] Each pseudostem normally produces a single inflorescence, also known as the "banana heart". After fruiting, the pseudostem dies, but offshoots will normally have developed from the base, so that the plant as a whole is perennial.[8] The inflorescence contains many petal-like bracts between rows of flowers. The female flowers (which can develop into fruit) appear in rows further up the stem (closer to the leaves) from the rows of male flowers. The ovary is inferior, meaning that the tiny petals and other flower parts appear at the tip of the ovary.[9]

The banana fruits develop from the banana heart, in a large hanging cluster called a bunch, made up of around 9 tiers called hands, with up to 20 fruits to a hand. A bunch can weigh 22–65 kilograms (49–143 lb).[10]

The fruit has been described as a "leathery berry".[11] There is a protective outer layer (a peel or skin) with numerous long, thin strings (Vascular bundles), which run lengthwise between the skin and the edible inner portion. The inner part of the common yellow dessert variety can be split lengthwise into three sections that correspond to the inner portions of the three carpels by manually deforming the unopened fruit.[12] In cultivated varieties, the seeds are diminished nearly to non-existence; their remnants are tiny black specks inside the fruit.[13]

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