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banana blossom

If you had never seen this flower before, and perhaps some of you haven’t, would you ever guess that it was from the lowly banana “tree?”  I’ve seen banana “flowers” that are a foot long (this one is about the size of an eggplant), hanging down off stems that are many feet long, and they have such a bizarre and almost alien look about them that you’d never think it’s from a plant that’s so common in many parts of the world.

A quick lesson in banana-ology is required before we go any further.  Bananas don’t technically grow on trees, they grow on a pseudostem.  And the thingee I called a “flower” is casually refered to as a “heart,” but it’s technically an inflorescence.  The inflorescence may be eaten (as well as the bananas, of course).

Is it strange that the flower/inflorescence of the banana plant hangs down, when most flowers grow up?  Wait, it gets weirder.

Before I saw my first fruit-bearing banana plant many years ago, I assumed that bananas grew downward, like most fruit.  I guess that was also because that’s how we handle a bunch of bananas:  we hold them by the stem, hanging down.  So I was astonished to find out that banana fruits actually grow up!

Did anyone else think that too?  Well, I assure you the image below is not inverted.  Bananas actually grow skyward.  See?

bananas

Now, in the final image, here’s the whole stem in all its inverted glory, with the inflorescence on the bottom and the fruit on the top.  Oh, and I should probably mention that the vine-y leaves in these images are from other plants, not bananas.  (The banana leaves are growing above the fruit, and aren’t very visible in these images.)

I’ll leave you with one last factoid:  did you know that a banana pseudostem can only produce one crop of bananas, and then the entire plant dies?  Yes, the next time you callously bite into a banana, remember that the plant that bore it is no longer living.  It gave its life so that you could enjoy its fruit.  Does that seem harsh?  Well, you know what they say…

It’s a JUNGLE out there!

banana flower and fruit

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10 Comments

  1. Mostly news to me and interesting at that. I thot the jungle cruelty was reserved for animals.

    • Hi Lyle,

      Is it more cruel to stalk a jungle animal that has legs and can run away, or a poor defenseless plant that’s literally rooted to the ground? 😉

      RPRT Photo

  2. Great photos. I would never have guessed what the flowers are. Wishing you a joy-filled Christmas season.

    • Thanks Lizzie.

      Have a great holiday as well! 🙂

      RPRT Photo

  3. wow!!!!
    that particular story … I did not know ….
    interesting.
    kiss
    vento

    • Hi Vento,

      It’s interesting to me how much we don’t know about such an ubiquitous fruit!

      RPRT Photo

      • not knowing is part of man
        but you are there to make this gap .. less incomplete.
        a kiss
        vento

  4. Thanks for doing the research and sharing. I’ve traveled the Hawaiian Islands and Mexico and have always found the banana plant (psuedostem) and flower (inflorescence) so interesting, mesmerizing in fact. I did not know that the plant only bears one bunch. My friends who grow banana and live on the Big Island tell me they have bunches that weigh 50-80 pounds. Now that’s a whole lot of bananas!

    • Hi Gail,

      Yup, banana plants are a trip. The more you find out about them, the more interesting they are.

      I remember first seeing them as a kid in San Diego. Lots of people had them in their yards, but I don’t recall ever seeing the flowers or the fruit. The plants seemed to just be for landscaping.

      Much more interesting for me to actually see the whole blooming and fruit production phase of the plant in progress.

      Do your friends on The Big Island happen to grow apple bananas by chance? I’m seriously addicted to them, and haven’t been able to find them on the mainland…

      RPRT Photo


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