The morphology of the banana plant…Observed and photographed on walks up the steep hill…

This was our first photo taken over two months ago on our first walk up the steep hill. We were fascinated by this peculiar looking pod which is called the inflorescence.

Please excuse formatting issues on this page due to the slow WiFi signal at the time of posting.

In a perfect world, I would have learned all of the intrinsic factors on the growth of banana trees in Madeira, Portugal, and also in many other countries where we’ve observed banana plants/trees flourishing.

When we first spotted the tree, these bananas already growing referred to as the bunch. This photo was taken in May 2014.

A commonly exported crop we’d often observed growing in Africa and Belize, we were fascinated by the massive banana plantations on this island where the weather is cooler than in most countries where they’re typically grown as a vital part of the agricultural economy.

The “inflorescence” continued to grow to change before our eyes.

Shortly after we arrived and settled in our home in Campanario, Madeira over the past almost two and a half months, I began walking up the extremely steep hill outside our door. My intent was first, for the exercise, and secondly, to take photos of flowers, vegetation, and local scenery.

“The inflorescence is a complex structure that includes the flowers that will develop into fruits.” The hanging pink and yellowish protrusions are the flowers.

Please click here for the scientific explanation of the morphology of the banana tree, described in beautiful detail.

As days turned into weeks, the inflorescence changed dramatically.

On the first walk which Tom shared with me, we were immediately taken aback by a peculiar pod-like structure hanging from a banana tree in the yard of the house next door.

“The rachis is the stalk of the inflorescence from the first fruit to the male bud. It can be bare or covered with persistent bracts. The scars on the rachis indicate where the bracts were attached. They are called nodes.”

Immediately, I started taking photos mesmerized by the odd hanging pod, especially as it progressed over a period of time as I continued the walks on my own.

When driving on the island we spotted another banana tree that had a much different looking progression of the inflorescence, perhaps at an earlier point that we’d missed occurring before our arrival in May.

As the pod morphed, the bananas grew to a hearty bunch and Antonio, Gina’s dad, cut them down. We saw him driving away with the huge bunch of bananas in the trunk of his car.

Back to our inflorescence, morphing as days passed.

In a way, I was sad to see them go. Where he took them, we’ll never know. He speaks no English. Perhaps, there is a place where property owners bring their bananas to sell for a Euro or two. Or, he may take them to a relative or friend that uses them to make banana bread. Who knows? 

It rained for a few days and I didn’t walk.  When  I began walking again on the next sunny day, more flowers appeared as the leaf lifts to bring in the sunlight.

The steep walk up the hill became a frequent activity for me as I watched a smaller unripe batch as it continued to grow. First thing this morning, I bolted out the door camera in hand, knowing my last banana tree photo was imminent to be posted here today.

The bunch continued to flourish. And then, one day, the bulk of them were gone, riding away in Antonio’s car, leaving a smaller unripe bunch behind.

In a funny way, I feel a sense of loss, the same loss I’ve felt when the roses ceased to bloom in their regal manner as the many other flowers of spring and early summer no longer presented their exquisite buds stretching for the sun and occasional droplets of water. 

And then, a few more days passed and there were flowers again.
This morning I noticed that the stalk, the rachis, had dropped partially out of view behind a withering leaf.
The small bunch remains as it’s nourished from the remainder of the tree and its amazing elements. Not a horticulturist or biologist, I don’t understand it all. But, it’s easy to revel in how complex and interesting Life is all around us.

Life. In any form, it’s magical. How blessed we are to live on a planet rich in life forms from the most infinitesimal microbe in a petri dish, to the plankton in the sea for the sustenance for many oceanic life forms, to an animal in the wild, to the human on two legs walking the earth and to the banana tree in Madeira, Portugal where we have lived these past months, enjoying Life.

Photo from one year ago today, July 22, 2013:
No photos were posted on this date one year ago. Instead, we wrote about the problems we’re experiencing with biting flies and insects. With no screens on any of the windows, no AC in the heat of summer in Italy, we had no choice but to leave the windows open, inviting many flying and biting insects indoors. For details of the story from that date, please click here.