The Gardens of Chiconia 49

Baby bananas!

The flower bud has started to open, revealing the first row of tiny bananas with flowers at their flower tips. If we’re going to go all technical about it, the whole caboodle is called an inflorescence and those red petal things are bracts. The whole thing opens up in tiers or ‘hands’, layer by layer, and all the hands hanging from the central stalk are called a ‘stem’. When you consider how many bananas there can be on a stem, it’s no surprise that banana plants often need to be propped upright.

Very soon now, I’ll need to put a bag over the whole flower to protect it from birds, possums and fruit bats.

Banana trees aren’t trees at all, they’re a herbaceous flowering plant, and the trunk is the tightly furled stem of all the leaves. Dwarf varieties grow to about 3m, but the really big boys have been known to reach 7m. They’re related remotely to the ginger family, and grow from a corm in a similar way.

But the most fabulous thing I’ve discovered about bananas is that they’re naturally very slightly radioactive! They contain an isotope called Potassium-40, and the baseline radioactivity of bananas is called the BED or Banana Equivalent Dose, which measures radioactivity compared with the dose received by eating one medium sized banana. So, for example, if you were worried by living in an area where the local rock was granite, also a natural radioactivity emitter, you might be told it was safe because you were receiving only as much radioactivity, or less, than a BED.

It certainly isn’t going to stop me eating these lovelies when they’re ripe.

Here endeth the botany lesson…