Musa Basjoo - exotic, spectacularApril 27, 2012 @ 6:17 am
Musa Basjoo is a spectacular and flamboyant plant that offers a tropical look for climates that are nowhere near the Equator, climates like the Pacific Northwest even. It's actually a banana tree.
(Image: Barbara Armitage with the Adair County Garden Club)
Originally from southern China, Musa basjoo is commonly and inaccurately dubbed the "Japanese Banana." Also "Hardy Banana." It's been successfully cultivated since the 19th century in Europe and North America, but it looks like what you'd expect to see on an island in the tropics.
It's a huge plant that can grow up to 18 feet tall and has wide bright green leaves that themselves get six feet long and two feet wide. It may be a year or two before it takes hold but once it does, it grows extremely fast, as much as two feet a week.
And yes, it bears fruit - bananas, of course. In fact, it's considered the hardiest of all banana trees, able to withstand even below-freezing temps. The punchline here is that the bananas are not only on the small side, about 4 inches long, but they're also inedible and virtually tasteless, with a sparse white pulp and lots of black seeds. The fruit may not be of much use but its roots are used by Chinese doctors to treat jaundice and free up urine flow.
Overall, the Japanese Banana is considered an ornamental plant that landscape architects use to bring a startlingly exotic quality to an otherwise mundane or traditional garden. And it's almost always a great conversation starter.
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