Musa paradisiaca

Musa paradisiaca


By Lukas Hochenleitter und Kompagnie, via Wikimedia Commons

Musa paradisiaca is the first Linnean name given to a banana and is therefore technically the "type species" for the genus Musa1 .

The name was coined by Carl Linnaeus, the father of modern taxonomy, who borrowed the name for the genus from Georg Eberhard Rumphius2 . Linnaeus described the only banana he was familiar with: a specimen cultivated in George Clifford's glasshouse near Haarlem in the Netherlands and famous for being the first banana to flower in Europe. In 1736 Linnaeus, named it Musa Cliffortiana, which is technically a 'pre-Linnean' name. He renamed it Musa paradisiaca, in reference to the forbidden fruit of paradise3 , and published it in the first edition of Species Plantarum, the 1753 publication that marks the boundary between Linnean and pre-Linnean names.

Most authorities (e.g. Kew's World Checlist of Selected Plant Families4 ) give Musa paradisiaca, or Musa x paradisiaca, as an accepted name.  The x was added to indicate that the banana Linnaeus described—eventually determined to be a Plantain cultivar—is a hybrid of the wild species Musa acuminata and Musa balbisiana. All the Latin binomials that had been assigned to similar hybrids are now considered to be synonyms of Musa x paradisiaca, including Musa sapientum, which Linnaeus described in 1758.

Further contributing to the confusion, the Latin names Musa paradisiaca and Musa sapientum have respectively become associated with the English words plantain  (when used, erroneously, to mean all types of cooking bananas) and banana (when used, erroneously, to mean all types of dessert bananas) , a practice criticized by Ernest E. Cheesman, a British botanist who advocated abandoning Latin binomials for edible bananas5 .

In 1955, Norman Simmonds and Kenneth Shepherd put forward a scoring method based on morphological characters to classify edible bananas that has proved more useful to scientists than Latin binomials.


1 The species on which a genus is based and with which the genus name remains associated during any taxonomic revision. See Musa x paradisiaca in Musa: An annotated list of the species of Musa by David Constantine.
2 Musa in Rumphius' Herbarium Amboinense, published in 1741.
3 Häkkinen, M., Väre, H. and Christenhusz, M.J.M. 2012. Identity of a Pisang - historical concepts of Musa (Musaceae) and the reinstatement of Musa troglodytarum. Folia Malaysiana 13(2):1-14.
4 Musa x paradisiaca in the World Checklist of Selected Plant Families], retrieved 22 August 2018.

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Linnaeus’s banana legacy, published in InfoMus@'s News & analysis 21 May 2019
Musapedia page on the domestication of the banana
Navigate the taxonomy of edible bananas on the cultivar diversity portal

Banana cultivar checklist of local names and synonyms