Friday, June 4, 2010

Musa x paradisiaca - nomenclature

The first scientific name given to plantain banana is Musa paradisiaca, published in 1753 by Karl Linnaeus in Species Plantarum. In 1759, Linneaus published Systema Naturae, described Musa sapientum, a desert banana.

These two names were widely used for almost 2 centuries. However, classifying bananas of S.E.Asia based on characters of plantain and desert banana are too confusing. Asia, being the center of Musa diversity, many cultivars is dual purpose.

In 1955, Simmonds and Shepherd suggested that Musa paradisiaca and Musa sapientum were hybrid cultivars, and hence recommended their abolition. They are in fact diploids and triploids that evolved through the development of sterility and partenocarpy in Musa acuminata and Musa balbisiana.

However, according to rules of International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants ( ICNCP ), hybrids can also be given scientific name, with condition the epithet must carry the prefix x to indicate hybrid nature of the species. In this case, Musa paradisiaca should be adopted as it was published ahead of Musa sapientum. Thus Musa x paradisiaca is applicable to all hybrids of Musa acuminata and Musa balbisiana.

Modern taxonomy using isozymes and molecular markers confirmed the multi-specifid origin of edible bananas. The use of nuclear or cytoplasmic RFLP probes can even determine the maternal and paternal origins of banana cultivars.


The diagrame shows interspecific hybridization of Musa acuminata and Musa balbisiana in proliferation of edible clones.

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