Trinity Tree of the Month – the Banana tree
Posted on: 24 August 2023
This month we are featuring the Banana tree, or Musa acuminata, which is one of our unique indoor trees located in the O Reilly atrium. This plant can grow to seven metres tall and has leaves that are up to four metres long. These plants absorb a large amount of carbon to produce leaves and fruit, but quickly release it once fruited and die back occurs. Musa acuminata originated in Southern Asia and some reports suggest the plant has been in cultivation for close to 7000 years.
The banana tree is technically not a tree, but a gigantic herb – one of the largest known. It does not contain any lignin, which gives trees their strength and forms the chief component of wood. The trunk of the banana is made up of tightly packed layers of leaf sheaths, which begin emerging from a corm or sucker that the original plant sends out. The corm is the site at which a banana plant produces “suckers,” or offshoots of young banana plants that grow in clusters around the “mother” plant. Once the trees have fruit they die back and send out another shoot in a nearly never ending lifecycle.
The leaves of the banana are particularly spectacular in size and they can be used to serve or wrap food. Bananas require a good fertile soil that does not dry out and moderate temperatures. Dwarf varieties are available and can be planted outdoors but need to be inside over winter. Trinity’s Botanic Garden team is trying to germinate seed of Himalayan banana that should be hardy outdoors when in sheltered locations.
Unfortunately, we are not sure of the exact variety of this plant and no records exist of its provenance or taxonomy. The hard seeds contained in the fruit suggest it is one of the original forms of the species. The plant originally outgrew space available at the College Botanic Gardens, but records do not document the plant’s origin. Most of the bananas sold and consumed are hybrid varieties of this species.
We invite you to visit this Banana tree in the O Reilly Atrium, which is accessible to all staff and students. There are benches to sit down on and relax in the indoor jungle while listening to the gentle trickle of water from our indoor fountain. Access is from the second level of the O Reilly and down a spiral staircase. Trinity has four internal atriums you are also welcome to visit: the Hamilton Range, O Reilly Atrium, Watts Atrium and the Smurfit Atrium. You will spot some unusual plants there due to the unique growing conditions!
Thanks to John Parnell, Stephen Waldren and David Hackett.