bananas (Musa) in America

Michael Sternberg mstern at
Mon Aug 18 20:17:11 EST 1997

See Manchester, S.R.,1995, Yes, We Had Bananas, Oregon geology V.57
No.2, p41-42

"A fossil banana has been recovered from the middle Eocene Clarno
Formation, Wheeler County, Oregon.  The fruit is preserved as an
impression in lacustrine shale from the West Branch Creek assemblage. 
It is 4 cm. long, 1.5 cm, wide, and slightly curved and has well-defined
longitudinal and transverse striations.  Three rows of about ten seeds
are evident, and these seeds correspond in external form to
permineralized seeds that occur elsewhere in the Clarno Formation.  The
new information from fruit morphology, together with previous
investigations of seed structure, indicate that the Clarno banana
belongs to Ensete, a genus that is native to the Old World tropics
today.  The presence of this and many other tropical to subtropical
fruits in the Clarno Formation indicates that Oregon experienced a warm,
humid climate about 43 million years ago."

The Mustaceae contains three genera, Musa, Ensete and Musella.  The
familiar store bought banana is Musa acuminata, bred for negligible

Hope this helps in the discussion,


Bernard R. Ortiz de Montellano wrote:
> Prof. Smole also needs to be checked. 1) Why published in this journal
> (and is it refereed)? 2) what is his disciplinary training? or is he an
> amateur in the area of botany? 3) his citations, as provided by Yuri,
> are all paraphrases-- one needs to see the original wording in the
> sources. I’m not particularly impressed with Smole’s idea that _Musa_
> was in the New World in the Cretaceous and then survived till the
> present. If such a good food source had been here all along one would
> have expected it to be an important component of diets all over the New
> World and clearly named in Andean and Mesoamerican languages.
[snipped the rest]

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