Aquarium goes bananas

A banana palm has flowered for the first time in the giant glasshouse at Bristol Aquarium.

The dwarf Cavendish tree has been part of the botanical collection at the Harbourside attraction for five years but has waited until now to begin flowering.

The sudden appearance of the large purplish flowers should signal a crop of edible bananas towards the end of the year.

Bristol Aquarium horticulturist, Wendy Desyllas, said: “This plant family is one of the most prolific varieties in commercial production, giving medium sized edible fruits.

“This type of banana plant can’t be grown outdoors in this country but they have been raised in glasshouses and substantial conservatories since Victorian times.

“Once it has finished fruiting we will have to cut that tree down, but it will lead to lots of baby banana trees shooting up from the base which we can then replant and use to make next year’s revamped banana grove,” she added.

Dwarf Cavendish plants grow up to a maximum height of around 3.5 metres, this makes it stable, wind-resistant, and easier to manage. This, along with its fast growth rate, makes it an ideal palm for mass cultivation.

The fruits of the Cavendish banana range from about 15 to 25 cm in length, and are thin skinned. Each plant can bear up to 90 bananas.

Grown commercially in Vietnam, China and on the Canary Islands, the Cavendish is the world’s most widely sold type of banana.

As well as its fishy residents, Bristol Aquarium is home to dozens of exotic plants, flowers and trees from around the world – all housed within the giant glasshouse.

The botanical collection includes a display of orchids, flowering bougainvillea, Spanish flags, papaya plants, a ‘Jurassic Corner’ based around a collection of prehistoric tree ferns, Madagascan jasmine and fruiting banana trees.

Among the other horticultural highlights are the giant bamboos which grow at an extraordinary rate of up to 20 centimetres a day and the aquarium’s own crop of chillis and tamarillos.

Issued by Bristol Aquarium. For more information and to arrange picture/ filming opportunities please contact David Waines or Sarah Moore on 0117 929 8929.