Commonly known as Golden Lotus Banana (Musella lasiocarpa) is a showy relative of bananas (Musa spp and hybrids) in the Musaceae family.
Found at up to 2500 meters in elevation on the highlands in Yunnan province in China and north-eastern Vietnam, this short-statured perennial herb has rhizomatous growth and only reaches a maximum height of 150 cm tall. The non-woody trunk is botanically known as a pseudostem and consists of closely packed and overlapping leaf sheaths. It has green-grey, lanceolate leaves, arranged radially above the pseudostems, each measuring up to 60 cm in length. The International Union of Conservation (IUCN) classified this species as Endangered.
Due to the resemblance of the pseudostem and opening bracts to a lotus flower, this species is known as the golden lotus banana. For centuries, this plant has been cultivated and harvested for many uses in its native region in southwestern China.
All parts of the plant are used. The rhizome, leaf and stem are used for animal fodders. During winter in the mountainous region, the plants are used to feed pigs as other plants are scarce during this period, while the fibrous midrib of the dried leaves is used for weaving.
The inner pseudostem is also edible, either cooked or pickled. The flower bracts are used as traditional medicine to treat various ailments. In some regions, the starchy pseudostem and rhizome are used to make wine. In mountain farms, this species is planted at ridges of fields and terrace as they can mitigate soil erosion.
In horticulture, this species is cultivated for its large and attractive inflorescence and handsome leaves. It prefers full sun and well-drained soil. Currently, a few golden lotus banana plants are flowering along the edge of Silver Garden, which is just a stone’s throw away from the conservatories, so do check out this banana’s relative if you are visiting!
Written by: Arthur Voo, Senior Research Executive (Research and Horticulture)
Arthur has been working closely with plants for more than 10 years, whether in a park, nature reserve or glasshouse. These days, if he isn’t taking care of plants in the glasshouses, he likes to spend his time hiking and looking for interesting plants in the wild.