Plant huge, robust, sparsely suckering in many instances, to 5 m from parent plant, to 7 suckers, position vertical; mature pseudostem to 12 m high, to 50 cm diam. at base, covered with varying amounts of dead brown leaf sheaths, underlying color cream to yellow with large red-purple blotches, shiny, sap watery red. Petiole to 100 cm, petiole canal open with margins spreading, petiole bases not winged and clasping the pseudostem with corrugated auricles and sparse red-purple blotches; leaf habit erect, top-like, lamina to 500 x 105 cm, narrowly elliptic, truncate at apex, dark green adaxially, light green abaxially, appearance dull, surface sparsely covered with wax coating, leaf bases asymmetric, both sides rounded and auriculate, midrib dorsally medium green, ventrally orange to red-purple, with very corrugated lamina. Inflorescence first horizontal then pendulous, peduncle to 45 cm, to 7 cm diam., densely puberulent with long hairs, medium green, sterile bracts 2, bracts deciduous at opening of first female flowers. Female bud lanceolate, to 80 x 20 cm, bracts red-purple with paler pinkish lines externally, bright yellow internally, without wax, not imbricate, lifting one bract at a time, these not revolute before falling; basal flowers hermaphrodite, ca. 12 cm, ovary light green, arrangement of ovules in 4 rows per locule, compound tepal ca. 6 cm, with 2 prominent thickened keels and hyaline margins, cream to yellow, free tepal ca. 2.3 cm, oval, translucent white with thickened keel and orange lobe; stamens 5, with fertile pollen, style ca. 4.6 cm, cream to light green, stigma ca. 1 cm diam., white. Male bud lanceolate, ca. 20 x 12 cm, bracts red-purple externally, bright yellow internally, with sparse wax outside, not imbricate, lifting one bract at a time, these revolute before falling; male flowers on average 10 per bract in 1 row, falling with the bract, compound tepal ca. 5 cm, cream with 2 thickened keels, ribbed at the dorsal angles, with 5-toothed orange apex, central lobes smaller than outer lobes, free tepal ca. 2.6 cm, translucent white, rounded, smooth, with thread-like orange apex, stamens 5, filaments cream, anthers yellow, anthers and style exserted; stigma orange; ovary arched, cream. Fruit bunch compact, with 9 hands and 17 fruits per hand on average, in 2 rows, fingers curved toward stalk, individual fruit ca. 13 cm, slightly curved, slightly ridged, pedicel ca. 40 mm, puberulous, fruit apex pointed, with no floral relicts, immature peel light green, becoming rusty brown at maturity, immature fruit pulp white, becoming cream to brown and soft at maturity; seeds wrinkled, ca. 6 mm diam., 150 to 180 seeds per fruit.
At 12 m, variety xishuangbannaensis is the second largest known wild banana in the world after Musa ingens Simmonds (1960) from Papua New Guinea, which reaches 15 m in height. In the southern regions of Yunnan, this plant is a common pioneer species in the succession process, after tropical rainforests have been destroyed. It also grows in isolated canopy gaps in upper mountainous valleys and slopes with moist fertile soils, to 1600 m in elevation. These plants grow vigorously and often develop in monomorphic communities. It has a huge corm, up to 1 m high and 0.5 m in diameter, that can store a significant amount of nutrition and water for the dry season. It can tolerate the seasonal frost without damage, which occurs from December to January at higher elevations in Xishuangbanna. The flower buds are commonly sold in markets for human consumption, and the inner part of the pseudostem is used for refreshment.
Native to, China, Myanmar, Vietnam
CHINA. Yunnan: Xishuangbanna, Jinghong Co.; Longpa village, Wang Hong; Mengla Co., E Xiaola hwy., 10 km from Mengyuan village, Wang Hong; Guangnali village, Wang Hong; Mengla Co., Menglun village, He Li-qing.