Ensete, or Enset, is one of three genera of plants in the banana family, Musaceae, native to tropical regions of Africa and Asia.
Domesticated enset in Ethiopia
"Enset provides more amount of foodstuff per unit area than most cereals. It is estimated that 40 to 60 enset plants occupying 250-375 sq. meters can provide enough food for a family of 5 to 6 people." â€“ Country Information Brief, FAO June 1995
Enset (E. ventricosum) is commonly known as "false banana" for its close resemblance to the domesticated banana plant. It is Ethiopia's most important root crop, a traditional staple crop in the densely populated south and southwestern parts of Ethiopia. Its importance to the diet and economy of the Gurage and Sidama peoples was first recorded by JerÃ³nimo Lobo. The root is the main edible portion as its fruit is not edible. Each plant takes four to five years to mature, at which time a single root will give 40 kg of food. Due to the long period of time from planting to harvest, plantings need to be staggered over time, to ensure that there is enset available for harvest in every season. Enset will tolerate drought better than most cereal crops.
Wild enset plants are produced from seeds, while most domesticated plants are propagated from suckers. Up to 400 suckers can be produced from just one mother plant. In 1994 3,000 kmÂ² of enset were grown in Ethiopia, with a harvest estimated to be almost 10 tonnes per ha. Enset is often intercropped with sorghum.
The genus Ensete was first described by Paul Fedorowitsch Horaninow (1796-1865) in his Prodromus Monographiae Scitaminarum of 1862 in which he created a single species, Ensete edule. However, the genus did not receive general recognition until 1947 when it was revived by E. E. Cheesman in the first of a series of papers in the Kew Bulletin on the classification of the bananas, with a total of 25 species.
Taxonomically, the genus Ensete has shrunk since Cheesman revived the genus. Cheesman acknowledged that field study might reveal synonymy and the most recent review of the genus by Simmonds (1960) listed just six. Recently the number has increased to seven as the Flora of China has, not entirely convincingly, reinstated Ensete wilsonii. There is one species in Thailand, somewhat resembling E. superbum, that has not been formally described, and possibly other Asian species.
It is possible to separate Ensete into its African and Asian species.
- Ensete glaucum - widespread in Asia from India to Papua New Guinea
- Ensete superbum - Western Ghats of India
- Ensete wilsonii - Yunnan, China, but doubtfully distinct from E. glaucum
- Ensete sp. "Thailand" - possibly a new species or a disjunct population of E. superbum
The Genus Ensete is further organized into finer groupings including:
- Species: ZipcodeZoo has pages for 40 species, subspecies, varieties, forms, and cultivars in the Genus Ensete: E. 'Kluay Pa' · E. agharkarii · E. arnoldianum · E. bagshawei · E. buchananii · E. calospermum · E. davyae · E. edule · E. elephantorum · E. fecundum · E. giganteum · E. gilletii · E. glaucum (Snow Banana) · E. glaucum 'Vudu Vudu' · E. holstii · E. homblei · E. lasiocarpum · E. laurentii · E. livingstonianum · E. maurelli · E. mourelii · E. oregonense · E. perrieri · E. proboscideum · E. religiosum · E. ruandense · E. rubronervatum · E. schweinfurthii · E. superbum (Banana) · E. ulugurense · E. ventricosa · E. ventricosum (Red Abyssinian Banana) · E. ventricosum 'Atropurpureum' · E. ventricosum 'Maurelii' (Red Abyssinian Banana) · E. ventricosum 'Montbeliardii' · E. ventricosum 'Rubrum' · E. ventricosum 'Tandarra Red' · E. ventricosum (Welw.) Cheesman 'Red Stripe' · E. ventricosum var. montbeliardii · E. wilsonii
- ^ Richard Pankhurst, Economic History of Ethiopia (Addis Ababa: Haile Selassie I University, 1968), p. 194. Pankhurst uses the taxononym Musa ensete.
- ^ JerÃ³nimo Lobo, The ItinerÃ¡rio of JerÃ³nimo Lobo, translated by Donald M. Lockhart (London: Hakluyt Society, 1984), pp. 245f
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