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Musa balbisiana - Colla

Common Name Plantain, Plantain Banana
Family Musaceae
USDA hardiness 9-12
Known Hazards None known
Habitats Forests, on forest edges, in ravines and on water sides[418 ].
Range E. Asia - China, Indian subcontinent, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, New Guinea.
Edibility Rating    (4 of 5)
Other Uses    (2 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (1 of 5)
Tender Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun
Musa balbisiana Plantain, Plantain Banana
Musa balbisiana Plantain, Plantain Banana
David J. Stang


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Musa balbisiana or commonly known as Plantain is a native to eastern South Asia, northern Southeast Asia, and souther China. It is a perennial plant that reaches a height of around 6 m, with pseudo stems of up to 30 cm in base diameter. The leaves are upright and in clumps. The flowers are red to maroon. The fruits are pale yellow and inedible when raw due to its numerous seeds. It is cooked when ripe. The underground stem can be eaten as a vegetable. The inner stem and male flower clusters are used in curries. The fruit also has medicinal properties but no detailed information was provided. The leaves can be used as food wrapper or as plates. The stem yields fiber and the whole plant yields dye. Plantain can be propagated by division.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of flower
Musa balbisiana is an evergreen Perennial growing to 5 m (16ft) by 3 m (9ft) at a fast rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 10. The flowers are pollinated by Birds, Bats.
It is noted for attracting wildlife.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid and neutral soils and can grow in very acid soils.
It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil. The plant is not wind tolerant.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Musa × sapientum pruinosa (King ex Baker) A.M.Cowan & Cowan Musa × sapientum pruinosa King ex Baker


Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Flowers  Fruit  Stem
Edible Uses:

Fruit - raw or cooked[418 ]. The fruit is not often eaten raw, being unpopular because of its seediness[301 ]. The ripe fruit is boiled, baked, fried, or roasted[418 ]. Juice from the ripe fruits is mixed with sugar and then fermented into a type of vinegar[301 , 418 ]. Young fruits are used like green papaya in salads and pickles[301 ]. The green, yellow or brown fruits can be 10 - 25cm long. They can be seeded or seedless[418 ]. The underground stem can be eaten as a vegetable[418 ]. The inner stem is sometimes eaten in curries[301 ]. Male flower clusters - sometimes used as an ingredient in curries[301 ].

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

The fruit has medicinal properties[418 ].

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Other Uses

Other Uses The leaves are used for wrapping foods, for cooking and as plates[301 , 418 ]. Fibres can be obtained from the stem[317 ]. The plant yields a dye[317 ].

Special Uses

Cultivation details

A plant of the humid tropics, where it is found at elevations up to 1,200 metres. It grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are within the range 23 - 28°c, but can tolerate 16 - 38°c[418 ]. Mature growth can be killed by temperatures of 8°c or lower, whilst young growth can be killed at 12°c[418 ]. It prefers a mean annual rainfall in the range 1,300 - 3,000mm, but tolerates 1,000 - 5,000mm[418 ]. Prefers a position in full sun or light shade[418 ]. Succeeds in most moderate to fertile soils that are well-drained[418 ]. Requires a position sheltered from strong winds[418 ]. Prefers a pH in the range 5.5 - 7, tolerating 4.5 - 7.5[418 ]. Flowering Time: Mid Summer Late Summer/Early Fall. Bloom Color: Fuchsia (Red-Purple). Spacing: 36-48 in. (90-120 cm) 4-6 ft. (1.2-1.8 m) 6-8 ft. (1.8-2.4 m).

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The PFAF Bookshop

Plants For A Future have a number of books available in paperback and digital form. Book titles include Edible Plants, Edible Perennials, Edible Trees, and Woodland Gardening. Our new book to be released soon is Edible Shrubs.

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Seed -

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Plantain, Plantain Banana, Aatha kala, Athia kol, Athiya kol, Bhim thalit, Bicha kala, Bonkera, Chang-el, Chungbi anguoba, Kait dewsan, Kluai taanee, Sau-su-sheth, Wegoin, eti kesel.

Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Asia, Australia, China, Colombia, India, Indochina, Nepal, Northeastern India, Pacific, Papua New Guinea, PNG, Philippines, SE Asia, Thailand,

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : This taxon has not yet been assessed

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Ensete ventricosumEthiopian Banana, Abyssinian bananaPerennial6.0 9-11  LMHNM20 
Musa acuminataDwarf Banana, Edible bananaPerennial3.0 10-12  LMHSNM402
Musa basjooJapanese BananaPerennial3.0 7-10  LMHNM22 
Musa textilisAbacaPerennial3.0 10-12 FLMHNM005
Musa x paradisiacaBananaPerennial8.0 10-12 FLMHNM522
Musanga cecropioidesCorkwoodTree20.0 10-12 FLMHNM344

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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Links / References

For a list of references used on this page please go here
A special thanks to Ken Fern for some of the information used on this page.

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