Bananas you can grow

Lee Poulsen
Tue, 29 Nov 2011 16:43:33 PST
On Nov 29, 2011, at 9:33 AM, John Grimshaw wrote:
> Apropos of Musa being a geophyte, which would normally be expected to have 
> an underground dormant phase, I would say that this pushes the boundaries of 
> the definition a bit, as in natural situations they are effectively 
> evergreen and ever-growing. Obviously some of the harder ones can survive 
> being defoliated by frost, but does this qualify them as geophytes? When I 
> was last in Tanzania (2009) my area was very hard-hit by a long drought and 
> established banana clumps were reduced to bare 'poles' with perhaps a few 
> tatty greenish leaves from the centre. I've no doubt that the clumps 
> survived, however, and are probably bearing now, so in climatic emergencies 
> the geophytic back-up plan works, but it's not the normal form of growth for 
> Musaceae.

I  never thought of geophytes as requiring an underground dormant phase in order to be considered geophytes. I had always understood geophytes to plants that formed corms, bulbs, tubers, rhizomes, or similar organs, whether or not they went dormant. There are a number of geophytes that are evergreen such as Worsleya, some of the Crinums, in my climate the venerable bearded iris never loses all of its leaves, Neomaricas, etc. I've always assumed bananas are geophytes because when I've ordered some cultivars and was sent a large corm, which I have always planted below ground, eventually leaves begin to emerge and it proceeds to grow just like every other "bulbous" geophyte I've tried growing. In some marginal climate zones, many of the banana cultivars and Musa species are "root hardy" and die down to the corms each winter and sprout and grow again every spring after it warms up. This behavior *would* fit in with your definition without stretching it, I would think.

--Lee Poulsen
Pasadena, California, USA - USDA Zone 10a
Latitude 34°N, Altitude 1150 ft/350 m

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