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My mum told me that there are female and male bananas (the fruit, not the tree), and only female bananas contain seed. Is it true?

She said the little black things commonly seen inside banana are not seeds, and the seeds are very hard to chew and few bananas will contain them.

Do you know something about this? Have you ever opened up a banana and found obvious seeds inside?

Can the black dots or any obvious seeds be grown?

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I've had a go at making this question less about general curiosity and just eating bananas but really it needs more detail from you about what you're trying to do with bananas from a gardening/growing/propagating perspective. –  Tea Drinker Sep 7 '11 at 8:52
    
i've added a sentence to do this, but you're welcome to edit it, gunbuster. –  winwaed Sep 7 '11 at 13:38
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1 Answer

The yellow 'Cavendish' bananas found in grocers around the world are triploid cultivars. They are parthenocarpic (fruit without any fertilization) and sterile. Propagation is by cuttings (cloning). This makes them susceptible to disease (no genetic variation and no breeding is possible), and slowly the world's banana plantations are dieing out. The 'Cavendish' will probably be a thing of the past within my lifetime. This has already happened to the previous mass-produced cultivar (Gros Michel) which is not extinct but is rarely grown due to fungus problems.

Yes wild bananas and plantains with viable seed have large seeds. The black bits in mass-produced cultivars are the remains of the seeds but are completely sterile.

Stores and markets in tropical regions typically have a wider range of banana varietes and you may find ones which are not sterile. As well as the seed making them harder to eat, "wild" varieties tend to have a lot more flavor but do not travel very well.

The development of new banana cultivars that are disease resistant but still suitable for long distance transport is an area of active research. It is an application where a case can be made for modern genetic engineering over traditional propagation techniques.

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Great answer, very interesting details. –  bstpierre Sep 8 '11 at 12:01
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