Have you ever looked at a Plantain Tree and wondered what it is and whether it is related to a Banana tree?
Plantains are a type of banana, but a different variety to the one that we think of when we purchase bananas from stores. A Plantain Tree’s fruits look different from those of a Banana Tree. Telling the trees apart without fruits is difficult, and sometimes even impossible.
What Do Banana Trees And Plantain Trees Look Like?
Because they come from the same family, these two kinds of trees are very difficult to tell apart, even if you know a lot about them. They come from the Musa genus, and they have giant, spreading leaves that hang down from their branches like narrow umbrellas.
Some people say that Plaintain Trees produce foliage that is shorter and more shaped in the centers of the leaves, while Banana Trees produce longer, straighter foliage. However, this is a subtle difference, and even a trained eye may struggle to detect it.
Their leaves are otherwise similar in shape, size, color, and formation.
Neither plant is technically a tree, because they do not have proper trunks. Their “trunks” are made up of fibrous plant tissues, rather than wood. If you peel back a Banana Tree’s trunk or cut it open, you will see that its structure is very different from an actual tree.
Both Banana and Plantain Trees produce edible fruits and they are impressive plants. They also enjoy similar conditions, reach similar heights (up to thirty feet), and bloom in the summer. It is therefore hard to tell them apart until they start flowering and fruiting.
What Do The Flowers Look Like?
A Banana Tree will produce its flowers in long, narrow cones. Multiple flower buds form around a stalk, which opens when the tree starts to bloom, revealing the flowers within. They are small but make up a large bloom overall.
They are usually dark purple, slightly tinged with pink or red. The Banana Tree produces both male flowers, which do not create fruits, and female flowers, which are produced first and later turn into bananas. There tend to be fewer male flowers than female flowers.
Even looking at blooming flowers, it can be difficult to differentiate between these two plants, they are similar in terms of color and you may only be sure after the fruit is formed.
What Do The Different Fruits Look Like?
When the flowers start to turn into fruits, it becomes a little easier to tell these two plants apart – although they are still surprisingly similar!
A Banana Tree produces the yellow, curved fruits that we are so familiar with. These begin as a bright green color, and they are very curved, like the bananas that you might buy at the store. They will turn brown when they are overripe.
A Plantain Tree produces similar-looking fruit, but they are straighter, rather than curved. They also tend to be bigger and longer than a Banana Tree’s fruit, which makes them easier to tell apart. However, they do still grow in bunches, so at a glance, they could be mixed up.
The skin of a plantain is much thicker, so if you can pick a fruit and peel it, you will soon be able to tell which is which. A plantain does not peel very easily; it is easier to cut it open and lift the skin away.
Both bananas and plantains turn from green to yellow as they ripen, and both will slowly turn brown and then black once they become overripe. Damage to the fruit will also produce brown discoloration and make the fruits rot more quickly.
If you have a bunch of bananas and a bunch of plantains side by side, it is reasonably straightforward to tell them apart. However, hanging up in the trees, they can still look fairly similar. They are your best method for distinguishing between a Banana Tree and a Plantain Tree, but they don’t look very different from each other!
What Do The Fruits Taste Like?
Of course, we use the fruits in different ways. A banana is considerably more common in most Western environments, and it is a more versatile fruit. It has a sweet flavor and is very popular in desserts or as a snack.
It’s frequently used for smoothies, slicing into cereal, flavoring candy, and a whole lot more. Usually, bananas are eaten raw, but some people fry them or cook them into cakes or desserts. They can even be barbecued.
A plantain fruit is a lot tougher than a banana fruit, so it is generally cooked before it is eaten. Raw plantain is not appealing and contains a lot of starch. An overripe plantain can be eaten raw because it will have softened and become sweeter, but plantains are usually cooked to release the flavor and break down the structure.
Even once cooked, plantain has a robust texture, and it is not as sweet as a banana. It is often fried and served in savory dishes, rather than desserts. This makes it sweeter, but still not as sweet as a banana.
Are Both Trees Easy To Grow?
Banana and Plantain Trees share most of the same requirements, and they like warmth and well-draining soil. The more sun they get, the better they will grow. They generally thrive in USA zones 8-11.
You cannot grow either tree if you live in a cold climate, as they are vulnerable to low temperatures and frosts. The rhizomes below ground can withstand temperatures of around 22 degrees F, and will re-sprout the following spring if the main tree is killed. However, be aware of how dangerous cold is to both Bananas and Plantains if you wish to grow these trees.
Both can be propagated easily by allowing a sucker to grow on the main stem and then separating this from the parent plant when it is big enough.
You will need to water both trees during the summer, as these plants like plenty to drink, but do not like to stay wet for too long. The soil should be well-draining, and you should add water when the surface gets dry.
It’s also a good idea to mulch both kinds of trees to help trap water below the surface and prevent evaporation when the temperatures are high.
A Banana Tree is a heavy feeder, and a Plantain Tree also requires plenty of fertilizer. They will need you to feed them about once a month throughout the summer if they are to produce plump, tempting fruits.
How Do They Compare Nutritionally?
Given their other similarities, it won’t surprise you to learn that plantain and banana fruits both offer many of the same nutrients. They are high in potassium, which is a nutrient few people get in sufficient quantities. This makes them a popular snack.
They also contain resistant starch, which can improve the management of blood sugar and boost digestive health.
Both are fairly heavy in carbs, do not contain much fat, and may be included on a well-planned balanced diet.
On the whole, eating them is a great way to add nutrients to your diet, provided you balance them with other foods. Bananas may be more popular, but try plantains for some variety.
Banana and Plantain Trees belong to the same family, and they are both herbaceous plants that grow in tropical places. They are difficult to tell apart, but they are different trees, and the fruits they produce are quite different from each other.