The banana plant (Musa sp.) is an herbaceous plant which produces banana fruit. Almost all modern edible bananas come from two wild species: M. acuminata (from Southeast Asia) and M. balbisiana (from South Asia); the previous scientific names, M. sapientium and M. paradisiaca, are no longer used. The term “banana” is also used to describe members of the genus Ensete, such as the false banana and snow banana, sometimes referred to as enset. These also belong to the family Musaceae, which includes true bananas of the genus Musa.
In popular culture and commerce, “banana” typically refers to the soft, sweet, yellow fruits known as “dessert bananas,” which are an example of naturally selective evolution with some tampering by humans; prior to the discovery of dessert bananas, all other bananas were firmer, starchier, and known as plantains, which need to be cooked before they can be eaten. Sometimes, though, “banana” and “plantain” are used interchangeably. Though bananas are native to tropical southern Asia and are believed to have been first domesticated in Papua New Guinea, they are now cultivated throughout the tropics in around 135 countries. Domestication of the banana likely occurred between 8000 and 5000 BCE. Bananas are usually grown for their fruit, though they are also used to make banana fibers, banana wines, and are used as ornamental plants.
Dr. Gerry Harding identifies a banana species on Isla Nublar as Musa callimusa, which is a fictional species. However, in real life there is a section of the genus Musa called Callimusa.
Bananas technically are not trees, but rather herbaceous flowering plants. They are the tallest herbs in the world, sometimes reaching 23 feet tall in the largest cultivars. Its pinnate leaves can reach up to nine feet long and two feet wide, and are easily torn by wind. It produces an inflorescence when it reaches adulthood, which is sometimes called the banana heart. Fruits develop from the heart in large hanging clusters made up of three to twenty tiers (called “hands”). The individual fruits are yellow with a leathery peel and a whitish stringy interior. Cultivated bananas have nearly nonexistent seeds due to selective breeding. Bananas naturally contain the radioisotope potassium-40 along with normal potassium, making them slightly more radioactive than other fruits.
The banana plant is a fast-growing herb, and may begin producing bunches of bananas at nine months of age. It grows from small seeds; in most of the domesticated cultivars, the fruit contains no seeds and so must be propagated by cutting and transplanting.
All of the above-ground parts of the banana plant grow from a structure called the corm. This part of the plant produces leaves, which form the stem. When the plant is fully mature, the corm stops producing leaves, and instead produces a spike-shaped inflorescence which bears the flowers. This grows upward until it reaches the top of the plant, becoming the banana heart.
All known bananas are monoecious and possess both male and female flowers.
The banana plant is native to the tropics, including Australia and Indonesia. They were probably first domesticated in Papua New Guinea. They grow well in soil that is at least 60 centimeters deep, not compacted, and well drained of water; as long as these conditions are met, they will grow in most soil types.
Bananas are known to grow on Isla Nublar, according to Jurassic Park: The Game. In particular, the species Musa callimusa grows there; it was a food source for Triceratops, so it was probably found in their paddocks. It is physically seen in the primary Triceratops paddock.
It is unknown if any banana plants remained on Isla Nublar in 2015, as none are encountered. However, it is likely that most, if not all, of any remaining bananas were destroyed in the June 23, 2018 eruption of Mount Sibo.
According to the junior novel Survivor, bananas of unidentified species were grown on plantations on Isla Sorna before InGen purchased the island. As of 2001, some groves still existed despite having been left to grow wild for decades. Eric Kirby encounters one in the western region of the island, and later discovers a map with the locations of various banana groves across Isla Sorna. None of the locations are specifically described, however.
Bananas are originally native to Southern and Southeast Asia, depending on the species. They were first cultivated in regions of Southeast Asia and Papua New Guinea, from which they spread throughout Australasia and Africa. Today, they are cultivated in warm environments around the globe. Around 148 million tonnes of bananas were produced annually as of 2016, most of which were grown in India and China. A substantial amount were also produced in South America.
On June 10, 1993, numerous bananas could be seen at a fruit vendor’s market stand in San José, Costa Rica.
Bananas, like most plants, take in carbon dioxide through the stomata in their leaves during the daytime and close the stomata at night.
Diet and Feeding Behavior
As a photoautotroph, the banana plant creates its own food using energy from sunlight. It obtains water through its roots, and takes in carbon dioxide through microscopic pores in its leaves called stomata. It then uses the energy it obtains from the sun to convert these into carbohydrates, producing oxygen as a waste product.
The banana plant’s huge pinnate leaves are an adaptation to maximize the amount of sun exposure it gets, and therefore the amount of carbohydrates it can produce.
Most plants can interact with one another by means of chemical signalling. While banana plants commonly grow in groves, their interactions are poorly chronicled.
In all fruiting plants, the fruit structure is intended for reproductive purposes. Animals pollinate the herb’s flowers, though male and female flowers are found on the same plants. The female flowers develop into the fruits we know as bananas. When an animal eats the banana, the seeds are carried some distance away and deposited in a new habitat by means of the animal’s dung. They are not a seasonal plant and breed year-round. The stem dies after reproduction, but new offshoots have usually sprouted by this time and will continue to grow.
However, in cultivated bananas, the seeds are typically reduced to tiny, nonfunctional specks. Such a trait would never evolve in nature (as it would ensure that the plant would never reproduce), but humans have bred the banana to have this trait in a perfect example of artificial selection. Because of this, cultivated bananas need to be propagated asexually by humans; the domesticated plants are allowed to grow two shoots at a time, so that the second, younger shoot (called a “sucker”) can be used to produce a new crop roughly six to eight months after the main one has died.
Most plants utilize chemical signals such as pheromones to communicate with one another. The specific signals used by banana plants are not well studied.
Dr. Gerry Harding stated that the Triceratops on Isla Nublar like to eat banana leaves. Because they favored the leaves instead of fruits, it is unlikely that Triceratops are important distributors of seeds. Instead, they are simply predators of the banana plant. The animals mostly chewed on the leaf’s stem, rather than the pinnate part of the leaf itself.
The junior novel Survivor describes bananas as a food source for herbivorous mammals, such as two-toed sloths, monkeys, and opossums, as well as depicting Diplodocus feeding on the leaves.
Interactions with Humans
The banana has been an important starchy food crop in the tropics for thousands of years. Humans have selectively bred bananas to have incredibly small seeds, making them more palatable; this means that the bananas must be propagated manually by the humans, as they cannot reproduce normally. In addition to their fruit, the banana’s inner trunk and the banana heart can also be eaten; the large waterproof leaves are frequently used as plates, cups, or umbrellas. The fibers are used for textiles and paper. Because of their long history with humans, bananas are of cultural significance in many parts of the world.
Banana plantations are common in the tropics. In the junior novel Survivor, banana plantations were one of Isla Sorna’s primary economic resources prior to InGen buying the island. Bananas belonging to the fictional species Musa callimusa were grown on Isla Nublar as well, though there is no indication that there were large-scale plantations on the island as the novelization states was the case on Isla Sorna.