We’re going bananas

New leaves appearing on the banana plant

Musa cavendeishii, I say to you, which translates as… banana.  Now, I’m not trying to be all ‘climate change is going to make it possible to grow these so I am starting now’ but it’s another family heirloom.  Back in the day, probably 20 years ago, my brother went to the Reject Shop in Kingston and brought home a little banana plant that was about 10cm tall and looked like it was growing in a test tube.  Who knows why he brought it home.  Maybe it was because he really loved the bananas when we lived in the Gambia (wish I could insert that really sweet photo of him with all the bananas around him).

But soon the banana started growing and there there were lots of banana plants with fresh new leaves.

New leaves appearing on the banana plant

To everyone’s disbelief it kept on growing.  Sure some of the leaves went brown, or if we took it outside for a shower and some rays the leaves would fray.  But still, it continued to grow and we continued to give it new pots and new compost.  And then a strange thing happen, these things started appearing at the base of the plant… babies!  So now we were looking after the mother plant and her babies.  My brother went to school, we kept on looking after them.   These were potted up and soon we had a little plantation.  Now before you accuse me of messing with Ecuador’s banana plantation workers and the export markets (see what I did there Caselli ;)) they have never produced a hand of bananas.  But we didn’t really do it for the hands.

More recently, through this project I have found out about the banana’s potential to help clean our air.  And the clue is in the leaves.  Unlike the aloe which has really succulent leaves and stores the little water it gets in its leaves.  Bananas transpire at a very high rate and so need a lot of water, but this transpiration keeps the air more humid than otherwise.  This is particularly important if you are suffering from Sick Building Syndrome through having central heating on or air conditioning, not opening the windows and generally not letting the air flow.  A low humidity rate can irritate the membranes in your nose and thus increasing the susceptibility to airborne chemicals, viruses and allergens.  Not really what we want.

I say bananas to all that.  Just a few banana plants around and when the light filters through the leaves you will think you are in your own tropical paradise, and meanwhile they will be emitting a good amount of humidity.  Great stuff.  As to placements- a sunny spot, and make sure that it gets enough water and nutrients.

So having found out all this information, I happened to be in my flat mate’s shop and see a poor banana plant in a pot that was way too small, it had lots of babies at the bottom and the soil was very very dry and the roots were sticking out the bottom.  Not something I wanted to see knowing how useful and beautiful these plants can be.  So, I tucked it under my arm and walked off with it.  Also promising to return it, in a new pot with little babies in new pots.  So they have been hanging out with us since last summer, but now I am starting a little plantation with babies a bit like this.

A rescued baby now re-potted and growing again

I returned the mother plant and the babies, but for my endeavours they said I could keep a few of the babies.  Now that is what this foster mum wanted to hear.  So now we have a few in the living room, study and hall.  I have put gravel on the top as it helps return the moisture in the soil and thus reducing the frequency of watering needed.  And seeing them all makes it feel a little more like home.

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