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Story and photos by Russ Grayson, October 2018.

Common name: Banana.
Scientific name: Musa spp; many species.

Growth form: Single stem herbivorous flowering plant of tropics to cool temperate of variable height with large, broad leaves radiating from the crown. 
Bananas develop on stems that grow from the crown and that end in a single, large, cone-shaped purple flower.
The plant is felled after fruiting, by which time young plants should have appeared to replace it.
Reproduction: From suckers.
Distribution: Tropical/subtropical regions.
Centre of diversity: PNG highlands and South East Asia.

  • high water need
  • shelter from strong winds
  • in cool temperate climates banana requires a sheltered, warm microclimate.
The purple flower seen below the ripening bananas is prepared as a food in some cultures.


  • human food; different varieties eaten raw and cooked (cooking species are  known in come cultures as ‘plantains’). 
  • leaves used as food packaging and for serving food on
  • banana stem is made into banana paper and a textile
  • the purple flower at the end of the fruiting stem can be prepared as a food.

Uses in community food garden design:

  • food source
  • use leaves, chopped stem to make compost after plant is felled following fruiting. 
  • plant in community garden tree cropping/orchard area or in sheltered corners of the garden. 

Notes: The rapid growth rate of bananas makes them a fast fruit in community gardens.

Bananas are a low-maintenance, compact crop for the community garden. Remove the plant once it has fruited and been harvested. This keeps the clump compact and makes way for suckers and the next generation.
Period of human use is around 8000 years.

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