3. Banana and Plantain. Bananas and plantains (Musa species, Musaceae) are indigenous to southeast Asia and the Pacific (Simmonds 1995). These are large, herbaceous, perennial plants with a pseudostem consisting of tightly whirled leaf sheaths through which the inflorescence emerges. Bananas are the name for fresh fruit types, while plantains refer to cooking types. They are propagated vegetatively by corms (the true stem) through offshoots. The early evolution and migration of the banana is unknown but is ancient. Banana is referred to by Theophrastus and certainly originated thousands of years earlier. Bananas reached west Africa before European contact, and a few clones from there reached the New World in the late 15thcentury. They were widespread in the tropics by the end of the 16thcentury. The wild bananas are seedy and diploid. The cultivated bananas and plantains exhibit a combination of parthenocarpy, sterility, and polyploidy, principally triploidy. Parthenocarpy
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whirled leaf sheaths, M. acuminata, fresh fruit types