Musa basjoo

Common name: Japanese Banana Family: Musaceae
Author: Siebold.&Zucc. Botanical references: 11, 200
Synonyms: Musa japonica (Thiéb.&Ketel.)
Known Hazards: None known
Range: E. Asia – Japan.
Habitat: Not known
Edibility Rating (1-5): 2 Medicinal Rating (1-5): 2
Systematics: From a UDSA Plants Database
Order: Zingiberales. Banana family
Other Range Info: From the Ethnobotany Database

Physical Characteristics

An evergreen perennial growing to 3m by 2m . It is hardy to zone 8. It is in leaf all year. The flowers are monoecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but both sexes can be found on the same plant). We rate it 2/5 for edibility and 2/5 for medicinal use.

The plant prefers light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and requires well-drained soil. The plant prefers acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It requires moist soil.

Habitats and Possible Locations

Woodland, Cultivated Beds, Sunny Edge, By Walls, By South Wall, By West Wall.

Edible Uses


The nectar of the flowers is sweet and drinkable


Medicinal Uses

Diuretic; Febrifuge; Sialagogue.

The roots are diuretic, febrifuge and sialagogue

147. A decoction is used in the treatment of beriberi, constipation, jaundice, dropsy, restlessness due to heat, leucorrhoea and croton bean poisoning147, 218. The leaves are diuretic218.

Other Uses


A fibre is obtained from the leaf stems

1, 11, 61. Used for cloth, sails etc46, 134. The fibre can also be used for making paper189 The leaves are harvested in summer and are soaked in water for 24 hours prior to cooking. The fibres are cooked for 2 hours with lye and then beaten in a ball mill for 4½ hours before being made into paper189.

Cultivation details

Requires a rich soil and a sunny sheltered position11, 166, 200. The large leaves are very easily torn by the wind233. This species is only hardy in the milder areas of Britain and even there will require protection in colder winters1. It thrives and fruits in south-western Britain11, 59 where it survived the very severe winters of 1985 to 1987K. Plants are herbaceous and die down after flowering, forming new shoots from the roots. Cultivated in Japan as a fibre plant11.


Seed – best sown as soon as it is ripe in a warm greenhouse134. The seed usually germinates rapidly. Pre-soak stored seed for 72 hours in warm water, if it is still floating then it is not viable. Sow in a warm greenhouse in spring, planting one large seed in each pot. Germination usually takes place within 2 – 24 weeks at 22°c134. Grow the plants on in the greenhouse for at least 3 years before trying them outdoors. The seed remains viable for 2 years134. Removal of suckers as the plant comes into growth in spring.