Don’t go bananas overthinking this one: Banana trees are actually herbaceous flowering plants (herbs), and the fruits they bear are botanically classified as berries.
The plant we know as the banana tree is actually a distant relative of ginger. Because it has a pseudostem (a succulent tree stem) instead of a wooden one, it’s classified as an herb. In fact, experts say that banana trees are the largest herbs in the world.
The yellow fruit it bears is fleshy, has seeds, and comes from a single flower with one ovary—the simple botanical definition of a berry. Berries have three distinct fleshy layers: the exocarp (outer skin), mesocarp (fleshy middle) and endocarp (innermost part with seeds). A banana has all three parts; its seeds are just tiny specks, though, as a result of the plant being commercially grown.
There are over 1,000 species or hybrids of banana, scattered across more than 150 countries. All of them fall under the Musa genus of the Musaceae family. The most well-known type of banana is perhaps the Cavendish, produced in large quantities for export markets. Abaca (M. textilis) is another type of banana, grown and harvested for its strong, durable fiber.
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- Picq, Claudine & INIBAP, eds. (2000). Bananas (PDF) (English ed.). Montpellier: International Network for the Improvement of Banana and Plantains/International Plant Genetic Resources Institute.
Author: Mikael Angelo Francisco
Bitten by the science writing bug, Mikael has years of writing and editorial experience under his belt. As the editor-in-chief of FlipScience, Mikael has sworn to help make science more fun and interesting for geeky readers and casual audiences alike.