18. Musa sikkimensis Kurz MUSACEAE

Unlike the cultivated bananas, the fruits of this wild species are full of large, hard seeds. Whereas most species of banana are truly tropical, this one, which occurs between altitudes of 1320 and 1920 metres in the East Himalaya, in Sikkim and Bhutan, is more hardy. It was first collected by Joseph Hooker in Sikkim, but not formally described until 1878 by Sulpiz Kurz, curator of the herbarium of the Calcutta Botanic Garden. The Lepchas, the indigenous people of Sikkim, knew the plant as ‘tiang-moo-foo-goom’, and regarded it as slightly more edible than some of the other wild species with large seeds.

Watercolour of fruit of Musa sikkimensis and seed made by J.D. Hooker in Sikkim, 1848


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