The Incredible Growth of Banana Plants

4 Hours of Banana Growth

I have always loved banana plants. Actually kept one alive in a pot in an apartment in Columbia, MO for a few years! For an apartment banana in a cold climate, a new leaf is rare and exciting (if you are into plants anyway).

Upon moving to California, I acquired some banana plants. For free, even, though that really shouldn’t come as much surprise to other Californians.

In a more favorable climate — like California — Bananas are incredibly fast growing plants. And they multiply rapidly. A well established banana tree will produce two or three new tree stalks per year.

Fast growth? No. Really. Fast growth.

A couple of weeks ago, I was cutting the dead leaves off of our bananas and accidentally sliced new leaf growth that was coiled up inside an old leaf.

The picture at left was taken less than 4 hours after the cut was made.

4.5 Hours of Banana Growth

But that was just a small leaf. On a different plant, I cut down a rather large bit of the central trunk. At right is a picture of the new growth after about 4.5 hours.

Now, nearly two weeks later, the leaves are nearly a yard long and mostly unfurled.

Now that the banana trees are quite well established, I’m going to have to experiment with various recipes that call for wrapping the main ingredients with a banana leaf prior to cooking.

Unfortunately, bananas in California do not generally produce edible fruit. One of our banana trees did manage to actually bloom and set a hand of bananas, but they never matured. Bees, though, absolutely love banana blossoms.

Bananas are the single most global of all of the fruit crops. Interestingly, over 90% of all bananas sold are genetically identical (sad, too, because the best bananas I have ever had were all in the other 10%– unfortunately, they don’t ship well). As with any genetic monoculture, that means the world banana supply is vulnerable to catastrophic collapse due to disease.

And that is exactly what is happening now. You can expect that the current “universal banana” — the Cavendish — will effectively go extinct in the next decade or so, to be replaced by some new species.

This has actually happened before. The previous “universal banana” was the Gros Michel banana. It was pretty much wiped out by panama disease (banana root rot, effectively) in the early 1960’s, to be replaced by the Cavendish.

The claim is that the Gros Michel was a significantly sweeter banana and the Cavendish isn’t as good.

It will be interesting to see how the global notion of banana flavor will change next!

6 Responses to “The Incredible Growth of Banana Plants”

  1. John C. Randolph says:

    Looks like a job for iMovie’s time-lapse feature. A day of growth should be interesting to see over a one-minute stretch.


  2. annbb says:

    Same thing is happening in the laying chicken world….that’s why I always buy brown eggs. Small thing to do, but every litttle
    bit helps…I hope!

  3. Prague Hotel says:

    A recipe from Fiji using banana leaves – tip from Prague Hotel 🙂

    If you like fish…….
    1 whole fish (white meat about 1 – 1.5kg), scaled and gutted
    3 tomatoes, sliced
    1 onion, sliced
    2 cups coconut cream
    2 tsp salt
    2 chillies
    3 garlic cloves
    string and banana leaves (foil is much easier tho)

    Place fish on 3 overlapping banana leaves. Salt the coconut milk and season fish with extra salt. Stuff with garlic, onions and tomatoes. Hold sides of leaves up and then carefully pour milk on top of fish. Wrap fish with leaves and then tie with string. Place in shallow baking tray and bake for 45 mins.

  4. bbum says:

    Obviously that was mean to drive traffic to that particular Prague located hotel.

    But it is a damned solid recipe and, thus, comment remains with link. Thanks for sharing. That’ll probably be the first recipe I make with my banana leaves.

  5. Prague Hotel says:

    Thank you for your kindness – if you ever need a recipe with bamboo leaves, let me know! 🙂

  6. Adonis says:

    Awesome info! Very interesting stuff. I wish we could taste a Gros Michel banana some day!

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