Posted by on Jul 22, 2009 in Interesting Facts | 4 comments

0010-banana-clones

So I was thinking about bananas one day, wondering why you don’t find seeds in them. Turns out, there hasn’t been any seeds in bananas for about 10,000 years. Plantains (“cooking bananas”) and wild varieties have pea-sized seeds in the middle of the not-so-tasty fruit, but in the awesomely delicious yellowness of the domesticated bananas we know and love there is nothing but faint black dots where seeds once were.

Without seeds the bananas can’t reproduce, so all the banana plantations have started with cuttings from other plants. As a result, all the bananas of each variety are genetically identical, which means the whole bunch is very susceptible to diseases. In fact, before the 1950s, the primary banana export was of the Gros Michel variety, but one strain of fungus killed the whole world’s crop. It was replaced by the Cavedish variety, and in 2008 scientists were worried the same fungus might strike again. Further varieties are being engineered (and patented!) to be ready if needed.

Bonus Fact: Despite growing up to 6 metres tall, the “banana tree” is not a tree at all. There is no wood, but rather a tangle of layered leaves that shoot theier way skyward.