Musa Ensete Superbum

Ensete superbum is a species of banana from India. The plant is well-known from the Western Ghats, Anaimalai Hills, some other South Indian hills in Dindigul and other parts of the peninsular India. It has also been recorded from Jhadol and Ogna forest ranges in Rajasthan, North India. There are also reports of a similar species in Thailand, but it is yet to be formally described.

Plants may grow up to 12 ft in height and the pseudostem may be up to half the height with a swollen base of up to 8 ft in circumference at the base. The leaves are bright green in colour on both sides with a deeply grooved and short petiole. The leaf sheaths are persistent at the base and leave closely set scars on the corm. The fruits are about 3 inches long and more or less triangular with dark brown seeds. The upper parts of the plant die out during the dry season leaving the corm, which forms new leaves at the beginning of the monsoon.

The species is native to Assam, Myanmar, northern Thailand and north-western India, where it grows in the deciduous and semi-deciduous forests in the valleys and along the rocky hill slopes.

The name of the genus is the local (Abyssinia) one referred to the Ensete ventricosum; the name of the species is the Latin adjective “superbus, a, um” = superb, magnificent, with obvious reference.

Common names: cliff banana, rock banana, western hill banana, wild plantain (English); jungli kela (Hindi); bahuja (Sanskrit); kluai pha (Thai).

The Ensete superbum (Roxb.) Cheesman (1948) is an erect monocarpic rhizomatous herbaceous species with single stem, 3-3,5 m tall, with pseudo stem formed by the persistent foliar bases strictly wrapping one over the other, almost conical, 0,9-1,2 m tall with a diameter of about 70 cm at the base and 30 cm at the apex under the leaves. The leaves, on a deeply grooved petiole, are simple, entire, oblong-lanceolate, 1,5-3 m long and 50-90 cm broad, of bright green colour. The inflorescence is a curved terminal spike on a robust peduncle, 0,5-1 m long, with groups of 10-15 flowers arranged on two series along the floral axis, each one covered by thick ovate bracts, about 25 cm long and 20 cm broad, opening in succession, persistent, of reddish brown colour. At the base of the inflorescence are present female flowers, followed by the male ones in the terminal part. The fruits are oblong berries with almost triangular section, about 7 cm long and of 3,5 cm of diameter, containing subglobose blackish brown seeds rather angulate due to the mutual pressure, of 0,8-1,2 cm of diameter.

In the humid warm regions it is evergreen with three years life cycle, in the monsoonal ones the aerial part dies during the dry season and grows again during the rain season, with a four years cycle.

It reproduces by seed, previously kept in water for two days, in sandy loam maintained humid at the temperature of 26-28 °C with variable germination times starting from about one month, and by micropropagation. It can be propagate vegetatively by cutting at the base the pseudo stem of a plant who is on the way of blooming and emptying the rhizome at the centre and filling it with topsoil, in this way we may get some plants that can be detached, not simple operation and, of course, at the expense of the mother plant.

Fairly rare species with magnificent foliage, cultivable in the humid tropical and subtropical zones, its cultivation may be tried in the warm temperate ones where temperatures of some degree lower than 0 °C are short lasting exceptions. Can be utilized isolated or in group in parks and gardens in full sun or slight shade and sheltered from the winds which would harm the large leaves; it is not particular about the soil, even poor, provided draining, constantly maintained humid during the vegetative period. It can be cultivated in capacious containers, in organic loam with addition of sand or agri-perlite per 30%, for the decoration of greenhouses and particularly luminous winter gardens, with winter lowest preferably not under the 10 °C; the waterings must be regular and abundant in summer, more spaced in winter allowing the substratum to dry up almost completely.

The species has also a special religious meaning in the Buddhist culture and is planted close to the monasteries.

Since long time the ground seeds are used in the traditional medicine for various pathologies; laboratory studies have evidenced in the extracts the presence of bioactive substances such as alkaloids, phenols, flavonoids, saponins, etc. and anti-inflammatory activity which requires further studies.

Synonyms: Musa superba Roxb. (1811).

Plant Name        Ensete superbum

                Common name: Rock Banana, Wild plantain

                Marathi:              Chaveni, rankel

                Hindi:                   Jungli kela

                English:                Rock Banana

                Jawhar:                Kavadar

Interesting facts and history

Ensete superbum is a native and endemic to Western Ghats, although, they are also found in peninsular India, Assam and Rajasthan. It has been reported to be rare and endangered species due to habitat destruction. Considering its high medicinal importance and the present status, it has been recommended for conservation under the Medicinal Plant Conservation Area.

Rock banana is highly valued as an ornamental plant. The broad leaves and deep red- brownish colour flowers enhances the aesthetic value, thus preferred by landscape architectures for planting in the gardens. Domestication and cultivation as a horticulture plant due to its various uses has also been explored.

Identification guide


It is characterised by 2 feet high, pseudo-stem, waxy and does not produce suckers.


Leaves are similar to that of banana leaves; bright green from both sides, reaching up to 6 feet in length with a red, deeply grooved and short petiole


The inflorescence persists with dark brown-red bracts surrounding each group of flower. The flowers attain the height of about 2 feet in length. It has a curved terminal with a conical shaped fruit containing brown seeds in abundance.

Habit / Habitat


It is commonly known as cliff banana. The plant is often found attached to cliffs or rocks in wild. It is a hardy plant and prefers rocky barren lands.


1) It is native to tropical regions of Asia and Africa. It is commonly found in Western Ghats, Anaimalai Hills  and other parts of the peninsular India.

2) Name of village: Dabosa water fall, Jawhar

3) The plant is visible only during the monsoons.

Edible parts

Used by tribal community in Jawhar       Flower, pseudo- stem, seeds

Method of consumption

Jawhar tribal      Stem and flower are boiled and cooked as a vegetable

 Seeds are used to cure dog bites

Nutritional and medicinal information

Nutritional significance

Nutritional assessment of the flowers of Ran keli shows that it is rich in micro-minerals such as iron, copper and zinc. As these minerals are important in required amount in the human body for haemoglobin formation, to elude the cardiac abnormalities and for the functioning of taste and eyesight, to multiply cells and bone metabolism respectively. Thus, according to study carried out by al, E. superbum (Roxb.) Cheesuran showed highest amount micro-minerals and could be explored as an alternative food for malnutrition population in developing countries.

Propagation and Storage

 Season of collection:

Flowering and Fruiting: June to September

How to grow it?

 Natural multiplication is only by means of seeds

 Method of storage

1) Prop gules: Seeds

2) Edible parts: edible parts are not stored and eaten immediately after harvest

Other uses         

 The core of the inflorescence and pseudo stem is eaten as a salad while flower is cooked as a vegetable. Seeds have medicinal property and used to treat kidney stones and diabetes.


Kingdom:             Plantae

Division:              Spermatophyta

Sub-division:      Angiospermae

Class:                    Monocotyledonae

Series:                  Epigynae

Family:                Scitamineae

Sub-family:         Musaceae

Genus:                Ensete

Species:               superbum





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