Is a Banana Plant a Herb, Shrub or Tree?
According to Purdue University’s Center for New Crops and Plant Products, banana plants are not trees. They are, in fact, large herbs, as they do not have a persistent or woody stem. Although a banana plant has no wooden trunk, it can reach heights of as much as 40 feet, though, making it one of the tallest herbs grown on Earth.
A banana plant does not have a wooden stem, unlike any other trees its height. The base's leaves overlap and intertwine in such a manner that a strong column known as a pseudostem, is formed, which gives support to the plant and its fruits. The leaves of a banana plant are made of leaf blades, leaf stalks and sheaths. Being strong in nature, the pseudostem can independently support the entire weight of the plant.
A banana plant flourishes well in rich, well-drained soil and should be planted in a sunny spot. The plant cannot withstand strong winds and thus must be planted near a south- or southeast-facing wall. If you are living in a flood-prone area, plant it on a raised bed, so that it does not get destroyed due to water-logging.
Fruit vs. Herb
According to Oxford Dictionaries, a banana is a fruit because it contains seeds. The banana plant, however, is an herb because it does not have a trunk, branches or woody tissues.
According to Herb Society of America, an herb has, among other things, potential medicinal and health benefits and industrial and economic uses. Bananas have many healthful qualities, including plenty of potassium and fiber. As far as industrial uses, its fibers are used for weaving ropes, textiles and mats. The tannin of the banana peel acts as a tanning agent in leather processing.
Banana plants are often erroneously called "trees," but they are not trees. Unlike trees, banana plant stalks are made up of many layers of leaves and stems that eventually die back to the ground. Being perennials means bananas have devised a storage system for winter food reserves. Many young plants can emerge from a mature banana rhizome, allowing the plant to continue indefinitely as stalks develop, flower, fruit and die. Several banana stalks can emerge simultaneously from a single rhizome, if space allows. Banana fruits develop in a range of colors, with skins in shades from green to yellow and red, covering ivory to salmon-yellow flesh. A single stalk may require 10 to 15 months to produce an enormous stem covered in flowers called an inflorescence.
- O Chef: Is a Banana an Herb?
- Oxford Dictionaries: Is a Banana a Fruit or a Herb?; 2011
- Purdue University Center for New Crops; Musa X Paridasiaca; Morton, J.; 1987
- Aggie Horticulture; Home Fruit Production; Julian W. Sauls
- “The Herb Society of America”; New Encyclopedia of Herbs and Their Uses; Deni Bown, 2001
- Purdue University Extension: Banana
- California Rare Fruit Growers: Banana