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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?

  • 3
    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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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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Banana trees have male and female flowers, on the same plant.

Many vegetables and fruits plants are polyploid: this is a "genetic defect" which produces additional copies of chromosomes. More copies means more proteins which means larger plant/larger fruits. But then the plant is also more dysfunctional (so it needs help [active cultivation] and often sterile), and for some fruits, there is also a selection to sterile varieties: we can eat all the fruit (but unfortunately most of species will give a smaller fruits if the flower is not properly fecundated).

The genetic of bananas is interesting, and it seems to prove that we (human) started to cultivate vegetables a long before the "Fertile Crescent" cultivations. Also the etymology of banana names is also interesting, because it seems to follow the genetic diffusion of bananas, according the original species.

Read also the answer of winwaed, which give more details of the current varieties of bananas.

As winwaed wrote, on some places there are wild bananas, and other species and varieties are cultivated. Many of them have seeds. Fruits born on female flowers, but not having seeds, doesn't mean that the plant has no male flowers (or part of flower as more common), not that there are no male plants around.

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I just want to add those little tiny black dots inside store bought varieties are seeds, I scooped some out and planted them in a pot , it took months of watering but I now have a banana plant. Mind you i planted several and have only one plant. So they are seeds but its luck of draw and most are probably not viable, surely due to the extreme modifications done by humans through their existence. Much why very few citrus seeds from store bought fruit will grow, they sprout easily but growing to a healthy plant is different. It happens though, I grow mangos, avocados, and lemons all from store bought fruit and finally have a healthy banana plant from a normal store bought banana. It just takes time and patience, thats my biggest tip ppl give up on caring for the seed and once it dries it dies, like I said i had to keep that pot moist consistently for months to get the banana plant they take time. maybe you plant ten-20 seeds and get 2 healthy plants in the end but I get very excited when it works and it does! Mother nature knows best and is more than willing to work with us but science and greed is just stomping all over her...

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