One of the most striking features of a banana plant (Musa spp.) is its large, paddlelike leaves that evoke the look of a warm and lush tropical landscape. Wind tears the banana leaf blade, making it shred into variously wide sections. From a gardener's perspective, a banana plant grows fast and makes an attractive accent plant during frost-free times of year. Closely related plants to bananas also display large similar-looking leaves and make suitable alternatives.
Also in the banana family, Muscaceae is the Abyssinian banana (Ensete ventricosa), with leaves that look exactly like those of the common banana in genus Musa. While common banana leaves tend to arch and drooping from the trunk top, the Abyssinian banana's leaves usually are more rigid and held at an upward angle. The leaves make a rosette crown at the top of the trunk. Some purple-leaved cultivars of Abyssinian banana exist, such as Maurelii.
White Bird of Paradise
Producing white and purple flowers rather than orange and blue flowers, the white bird of paradise (Strelitzia nicolai) bears large, waxy leaves that resemble banana leaves. Also called the tree bird of paradise or giant bird of paradise, each leaf blade measures up to 5 feet long and is attached to a petiole stem up to 6 feet long. All leaves on the trunk-like stem radiate outward in a single plane, with leaves splaying out like a V-shaped fan.
Sometimes referred to as the traveler's palm since it becomes so tall with a stem-like trunk, the traveler's tree (Ravenale madagascarensis) produces paddlelike leaves 6 to 12 feet long. Each leaf blade looks like a banana leaf on steroids and also shreds when bombarded by strong winds. Just like with the white bird of paradise, the numerous, tightly grouped leaves in the traveler's tree radiate from the stem in a one-planed fan.
Sometimes called parrot's beaks or lobster claws depending on the shape of the flower produced, any number of plants in the genus Heliconia may be confused with a banana. Large species of heliconia produce the larger paddlelike leaves reminiscent of a banana. Winds may tear the leaf blades. Once a heliconia blooms, its non-banana identity becomes apparent, as the floral bracts are vividly colored and long-lasting. The flowers also never produce an edible, banana-shaped fruit.
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