Definitions

musa paradisiaca sapientum

Musaceae

Musaceae is a botanical name for a family of flowering plants. The family is native to the tropics of Africa and Asia. The plants have a large herbaceous growth habit with leaves with overlapping basal sheaths that form a pseudostem making some members appear to be woody trees.

The family has been practically universally recognized by taxonomists, although with differing circumscriptions. Older circumscriptions of the family commonly included the genera now included in Heliconiaceae and Strelitziaceae.

The APG II system, of 2003 (unchanged from the APG system, 1998), assigns Musaceae to the order Zingiberales in the clade commelinids in the monocots.

As currently circumscribed the family includes either two or three genera (depending upon acceptance of the genus Musella, see below). All of the genera and species are native to the Old World. The largest and most economically important genus in the family is Musa, famous for the banana and plantain. The genus Musa was formally established in the first edition of Linnaeus' Species Plantarum in 1753 — the publication that marks the start of the present formal botanical nomenclature. At the time he wrote the Species Plantarum, Linnaeus had first hand knowledge of only one type of banana, which he personally had the opportunity of seeing growing under glass in the garden of Mr. George Clifford near Haarlem in the Netherlands.

Before 1753 the genus had already been described by the pre-Linnaean botanist Georg Eberhard Rumphius and Linnaeus himself had described the banana he had seen as Musa Cliffortiana in 1736 (this might be described as a "pre-Linnaean" Linnaean name). The 1753 name Musa paradisiaca L. is now known to refer to a hybrid, rather than a natural species. It is known today as Musa (AAB group) 'French' plantain or Musa ×paradisiaca L. Hybridization was the cause of much confusion in the taxonomy of the genus that was not resolved until the 1940s and 1950s.

In this clearing up of the taxonomy, E. E. Cheesman in 1947 revived the name Ensete which had been published in 1862, by Horaninow, but had not been accepted.

Section Musella Franch. was raised to the rank of genus by H.W. Li in 1978 for the Chinese species Musella lasiocarpa, which was originally described in Musa, transferred to Ensete by Cheesman and subsequently back to Musa. Acceptance of Musella has varied, with some taxonomists considering it a synonym of, and including its single species in, Musa.

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