Banana Cultivars in New Zealand
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The naming and identification of banana varieties can be challenging. Banana varieties are often mis-named, renamed, multiply named. Under New Zealand conditions the fruit may look different, making identification from overseas sources difficult. There are also quite a few introductions from Samoa and other Pacific Islands, which local selections may be somatic mutations of cultivars, and therefore slightly different. The foremost authority on banana cultivars in New Zealand was the late Phil Gardner. The Gardner collection has been substantially conserved by Robin Booth of Kerikeri. Some of the best cultivars have been selected by John Prince, of Nestlebrae Exotics, Helensville, Auckland.
In the notes following, 'A' indicates the amount of the more warm loving Musa acuminata genes, and 'B' indicates the amount of the slightly more cool tolerant Musa balbisiana genetic background. M. acuminata and M. balbisiana have the normal double set of chromosomes, AA in M. acuminata's case, and BB for M. balbisiana (i.e., they are 'diploid'). As a consequence, they are fertile and set hard black pea sized seeds in the fruit. In contrast, most eating bananas have an extra set of chromosomes ('triploid'), which makes them infertile and seedless.
'Australian ladies finger' Actual variety name isn't known, According to Nestlebrae Exotics it "crops well, medium height, with good bunches tasting like commercial fruit sold in NZ. AAB"
Misi Luki - An improved ladies finger type from Samoa, sold by Landsendt Nursery as a good banana for Auckland. Landsendt have a small commercial plantation of this cultivar. Reliable. Recommended. AAB.

Mysore/'Red Misi Luki' - India's main commercial banana, a medium size plant with moderately attractive purply-pinkish blushed stems. Good flavor in a favorable site, with a nice sugar acid balance. This banana demands the very warmest site if it is to fruit and have good quality. Not recommended, except for the most favorable warm and protected conditions. AAB.
Sugar/Silk/Apple/Hua Moa - 10 to15 feet/3-4.5m high, the banana are short and plump, very thin skinned, inclined to split and to tear off and fall when it is very ripe, very white fleshed, dense, sweet, without flouriness or sliminess, but astringent when it isn't fully ripe.  It bears fairly reliably in warm temperate areas, has good sized bunches, and in spite of splitting, it's superior flavor and reliable productivity makes it a recommendation AAB.
Pata Sina:  A pleasant tasting, reliable and good cropping Australian Ladies Finger type banana, sold by Bernard King and Nestlebrae Exotics. The name is Samoan, and is said to derive from 'Patterson". Probably AAB.
Pacha Nadaan - An improved Australian Lady Finger type with good sized bunches, mild flavor similar to commercial fruit, with a thicker skin than the "Silk" types. Reliable cropper. Known in southern Queensland as being wind resistant, drought tolerant, and more tolerant of cool conditions than many. AAB.
Hamoa - named in New Zealand, probably incorrectly. Almost certainly 'Apple'. Not the 'Hua Moa' above. Good sized bunches of pleasant if unremarkable reasonably decent sized fruit (for a New Zealand banana, that is). Tendency to split. AAB.
Dwarf Orinoco - Relatively cold tolerant fairly reliable bearer with quite large ( 6 inch/150mm), very sweet, angular, bright yellow, astringency free, soft fruit with a rather distinct tough central 'core'. In cooler years the fruit can be rather thin, with dense flesh and moderate sweetness, but they are never astringent. Worth a place in a collection.
Goldfinger - released in 1989, this banana was bred in Honduras specifically for the less favorable conditions of subtropical areas, so is definitely worth a try.The plant is medium small, and the fruit is blunt ended and slightly tart. According to Nestlebrae Exotics, bunch size is fairly good, and the flavor is pleasant, but the bananas are not as plump as other short bananas. AAAB (tetraploid)
Brazilian/Pome a very tall variety, with a particularly marked flavor, small ('ladies finger') fruit. AAB
Ducasse/Pisang Awak - is a particularly vigorous and hardy banana. It grows up to 16½ft/5m high, and in subtropical conditions has up to 77lb/35kg bunches (less in New Zealand conditions) of tightly packed, small bananas with a light wax bloom. Found to be relatively cool tolerant and vigorous in New Zealand conditions, and relatively productive. Harvest is about 17 months after planting, again, in subtropical conditions. This is the most important banana of Thailand. (Note: it is somewhat fertile, and if it is pollinated by other banana species it may have a few hard, black seeds inside). In spite of the seeds, strongly recommended for well sheltered sites. ABB.
The Bluefield/Gros Michel bananas are the bananas of commerce grown in South America and the Phillipines, and grow very tall-up to 18 ft/5.5m. Being so tall, they are subject to blowing over when they are carrying their very heavy (to 100lb/45kg) bunches, unless propped up. From planting to harvest is about 15 months in this cultivar in the tropics. Poorly adapted to our warm temperate climate, not recommended. AAA.
Williams/Mons Mari/Giant Cavendish is a giant mutation of the cultivar 'Dwarf Cavendish/Chinese'. This is a common Australian commercial variety, and because tissue culture plants are relatively readily available for importation, it is attractve as a nursery plant. It is 6½ -13ft/2-4m high, the fruit are similar to 'Gros Michel', and in suitable conditions they are ready about 12 months from planting. It's height makes it suceptible to wind damage, and it is one of the poorer performing cultivars in warm temperate areas (sap flow is said to stop below 15 degrees celsius). AAA. Not recommended.
Dwarf Cavendish/Dwarf Chinese/Chinese  a common variety in home gardens because of it's relatively small size (8ft/2.5m) and tolerance to a wide range of conditions, including cool. The bananas are essentially the same as 'Williams'. Suceptible to Panama disease. Needs warmer temperatures than the warm temperate zone can provide. AAA. Not recommended.
Sucrier/Pisang Mas/Honey, as it's name suggests, is a very sweet banana; it has small fruit, thin skin, yellowy flesh, and small bunches (up to 28½lb/13kg). The plants are 8-11½ft/2.5-3.5m high, and prefer light shade. Planting to harvest is about 11 months under subtropical conditions. Unfortunately, this cultivar is not well adapted to cooler temperatures. Not recommended.
'Old' Lady Finger/Pome/Brazilian is relatively drought hardy, wind resistant, fast growing, is up to 16ft /5m high, and has short, slightly angular (not plump) fruit which (because it has a little acidity as well as sugar) has a rich true banana flavour. It has a tendency to have some undeveloped fruit in the bunch. While planting to harvest is about 14 months under subtropical conditions it is longer in warm temperate conditions. Because this variety is both tall and slow to come into fruit when grown in warm temperate areas, it must be regarded as a 'maybe', in spite of it's exceptionally good flavor. AAB.
Blue Java/Icecream is so called because the bunches of immature fruit are covered in a waxy bloom which gives them a blue-green caste. The plants grow to 13ft/4m (may require staking), planting to harvest is about 14 months under subtropical conditions. The fruit has particularly long stalks, are slightly angular, and have white flesh. Fruits poorly in warm temperate areas in spite of its ABB makeup, not recommended.
There are at least 44 named cultivars in New Zealand, but some may be identical varieties under a different name.
The best one to grow may simply be your friends or neighbours. If you come across a banana you like, or it's owner recommends, simply get a spade and dig out a sucker. With plenty of water in the hot weather,  applying fertiliser regularly , and starting with big healthy suckers it is possible to cut your first bunch within two years of planting. Once a clump is established, there will virtually always be one or two stems fruiting. Once fruited, the stem never flowers again, and needs to be cut down. It makes good mulch for the clump.
Banana varieties JJJJ About 28 edible varieties are briefly described, with a photo of the plant or the fruit or flower, in the 'stokestropicals' catalogue pages
Banana varieties and planting instructions JJJJ About 26 edible varieties are tabularly described with a photo of the fruit in the 'Aloha Tropicals' catalogue
Growing Bananas in the New Zealand Home Garden  JJJJ Our own brief page on all the elements of growing bananas at home
Banana cultivar photos JJJfrom the University of Hawaii, around 15 cultivars in the archive, plus other pictures of the plant and flower
Cold hardy bananas
There is a species, Musa basjoo, the Japanese Fibre Banana, being touted as " the world's cold hardiest banana. It is hardy planted in ground to -3 degrees F. and with protective mulching, down to -20 degrees F". It is from Southern Japan, and is usually grown for the fibre in the leaves, rather than the fruit. The fruit are small and seedy, but edible.They have even been grown in places such as Canada. The trick is to mulch the underground corm heavily so that it doesn't freeze over winter. It re-grows vigorously when spring comes.
Daniells, Jeff, 1995. 'Illustrated Guide to the Identification of Banana Varieties in the South Pacific'
Canberra: Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research, 1995.
Daniels, JW. 1986. 'Banana cultivars in Australia'
Queensland Agriculture Journal. Mar-April 1986. p 75-84.
J.C.Robinson, Bananas and Plantains, Wallingford, U.K.: CAB International, 1996.

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