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Spring Bananas in Russia

No, we haven't gone bananas. Belgorod State University's Botanical Garden has been growing banana plants since 2002, with the first edible 'winter banana' coming in 2007. Dr Natalia Zakharova explained this unlikely occurrence

Our Botanical Garden has been growing two types of banana. The first is the Musa basjoo, also known as the 'Japanese' or 'Hardy' banana, which in fact originated in southern China. The other is the Musa acuminata, the oldest known species of domesticated banana. It is thought to have first been cultivated around 10,000 years ago in south-east Asia. Bananas were given the name Musa by the father of taxonomy, Carl Linnaeus, in 1753. Musa may refer to the Roman physician Antonius Musa, Emperor Augustus' doctor, but is more likely a form of the Arabic for banana, 'Mauz', which first appears in 'The Canon of Medicine', an 11th century Arabic book.

Dr Zakharova said that it was the Hardy banana that was fruiting at the moment. In cold conditions and beyond its natural range, it fruits every two years, but towards the equator, it fruits annually. She continued,

This is the most cold-resistant type of banana of the 80 or so species of banana. Its fruits develop from female flowers and look like thin green fingers. Bracts (specialist leaves) soon form, and ripe fruits in each brush are transformed into bunches of fragrant, edible bananas. A banana stem looks like a tree, but in fact bananas are berries growing on grass! It is one of the largest herbaceous plants on the planet. In our Botanical Garden the plant can grow to 3.5 meters, but there are species that can reach 15 meters in height.

 Translated by I P Turner, Centre for Foreign Language and Academic Writing

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