Q: While contemplating a banana split at an ice cream shop, I noticed the seeds in the banana slices. Afterwards, feeling too porky to move for a few minutes, I began to wonder if bananas can be grown from seed. Is this possible?
A: You might have thought that the black spots in the banana slices were seeds. Actually, the spots are remnants of immature seeds. Banana fruit, at least on the commercial varieties, develops “parthenocarpically”, meaning pollination does not have to occur for fruit to grow.
You have probably seen banana plants in Atlanta which have grown outdoors long enough to produce a long pendulous flower stem. The first flowers at the base of the stem are female and that is where the fruit is produced. Further along the stem are neuter flowers, with the male flowers forming at the enlarged purple tip of the stem. Commercially grown bananas are propagated by offsets that grow at the base of a mature plant, not from seed.
Before your curiosity is engaged once again while regarding a dish of fried plantain, I’ll remind you that banana and plantain differ only in the amount of sugar and starch they contain. One is raised and eaten for its sweet taste, the other for its starch and nutrition. The edible bananas you enjoy are hybrids of Musa acuminata and M. balbisiana. There are dozens of other banana species but few produce useful fruit. Since it takes eighteen months of very warm weather (with winter protection here in Atlanta) for a banana to produce fruit, I don’t recommend you plan on growing the ingredients for your next ice cream dessert.
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