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Musa paradisiaca


Musa paradisiaca

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By Lukas Hochenleitter und Kompagnie, via Wikimedia Commons

Musa paradisiaca is the first Linnean name given to a banana and is therefore technically the "type species" for the genus Musa[1].

The name was coined by Carl von Linné, the father of modern taxonomy, who borrowed the name for the genus from Georg Eberhard Rumphius[2]. Linné described the only banana he was familiar with: a specimen cultivated in George Clifford's glasshouse near Haarlem in the Netherlands and famous for being the first banana to flower in Europe. In 1736 Linné, named it Musa Cliffortiana, which is technically a 'pre-Linnean' name. He renamed it Musa paradisiaca, in reference to the forbidden fruit of paradise[3], and published it in the first edition of Species Plantarum, the 1753 publication that marks the boundary between Linnean and pre-Linnean names.

Most authorities (e.g. Kew's World Checlist of Selected Plant Families[4]) give Musa paradisiaca or Musa x paradisiaca as an accepted name, thereby perpetuating the practice of giving cultivated bananas Latin binomials.  The "x" indicates that Musa paradisiaca is a hybrid and not a species.

Further contributing to the confusion, the Latin names Musa paradisiaca and Musa sapientum have respectively become associated with the English words plantain and banana, a practice criticized by Ernest E. Cheesman, who also advocated abandoning Latin binomials for edible bananas[5].

In 1955, Norman Simmonds and Kenneth Shepherd put forward a scoring method based on morphological characters to classify edible bananas that has proved more useful to scientists than Latin binomials.

References

1. Musa x paradisiaca  Musa: An annotated list of the species of Musa by David Constantine.
2. Musa in Rumphius' Herbarium Amboinense, published in 1741.
3. Häkkinen, M., Väre, H. and Christenhusz, M.J.M. 2012. Identity of a Pisang - historical concepts of Musa (Musaceae) and the reinstatement of Musa troglodytarum. Folia Malaysiana 13(2):1-14.
4. Musa x paradisiaca in the World Checklist of Selected Plant Families], retrieved 22 August 2018.
 

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Musapedia page on the domestication of the banana
Navigate the taxonomy of edible bananas on the cultivar diversity portal

Banana cultivar checklist of local names and synonyms