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About Ensete spp.

Ensete spp. well known as false banana, the Ethiopian banana, Abyssinian banana, enset or ensete. Its physical appearances look like the banana trees. It is an herbaceous flowering plant belongs to the family Musaceae. It is native to the eastern edge of the Great African Plateau, extending northwards from South Africa through Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania to Ethiopia, and west to the Congo, being found in high rainfall forests on mountains, and along forested ravines and streams. The main edible parts of the enset plant are the starchy rhizome and pseudostem. Enset only domesticated in Ethiopia and it is a staple for nearly 15 million people in the southwestern part of the country.

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  E. ventricosum     Enset rhizome      Typical Enset Farm


History

In 1769 the celebrated Scottish traveller James Bruce first sent a description and quite accurate drawings of a plant common in the marshes around Gondar in Abyssinia, confidently pronounced it to be "no species of Musa" and wrote that its local name was "ensete". In 1853 the British Consul at Mussowah sent some seeds to Kew Gardens, mentioning that their native name was ansett. Kew, quite understandably, did not make the connection, especially as they had never before seen such seeds. However, when the seeds had germinated and the plants had rapidly gained size, their relationship to the true banana became obvious.

Bruce also discussed the plant's place in the mythology of Egypt and pointed out that some Egyptian statue carvings depict the goddess Isis sitting among the leaves of what was thought to be a banana plant, a plant native to Southeast Asia and not known in Ancient Egypt.

Sir John Kirk felt that in habit Ensete livingstonianum is indistinguishable from E. ventricosum and noted that both are found in the mountains of equatorial Africa. [source: wikipedia]

The importance of enset to food security in Ethiopia first came to prominence during the famine of 1984-85 when, firstly, the contribution of this starch crop to nutrition during extreme weather evens was recognized, and secondly the food problems caused when the crop failed because of disease were recognized. Consequently, enset was widely domesticated and conserved for ensure the food security over the Ethiopian region.

Description

Morphology: Ensete Spp. perennial plant that grows 6-12 m high. its unbranched 'stems' are actually pseudostems made up of tightly-overlapping leaf sheaths, left behind when the leaf blade has died. The pseudostem is 1.5-5 m tall and widens at the base, giving rise to the specific name ventricosum (Latin for swollen or inflated on one side). Both the leaf midrib and the pseudostem are often variably stained purple or purplish-brown. As in other bananas, the main pseudostem dies after flowering and fruiting. However, unlike other bananas, the Ethiopian banana rarely produces suckers unless the plants are intentionally induced to do so for vegetative propagation.

Depending on the clone (or cultivar) and environmental conditions, flowering occurs after about four to eight years. The flowers are produced in conspicuous 2-3 m long inflorescences which are borne directly at the apex of each pseudostem. The 4-8.5 cm long, white to cream-coloured flowers are bisexual or male, and occasionally also female. Bisexual and (if present) female flowers are found at the base of the inflorescence, whereas male flowers are produced closer to the apex. The floral display is supported by large maroon-purple bracts subtending large groups ('hands') of flowers.

The yellow or orange-coloured fruits are 8-15 cm long and up to 4-5 cm in diameter, usually with a persistent style and floral remains. There are usually 15-25 very hard, black seeds per fruit, although numbers vary from 0-40. The seeds are embedded in an edible but tasteless orange pulp and vary in size (1.2-2.3 x 1.2-1.8 x 0.9-1.6 cm). They vary in shape from nearly spherical to flattened and irregular, and from deeply striate (grooved) to almost smooth. Monkeys and birds are the most likely dispersers of the seeds. [source: Kewscience ]

Habit: Giant herb arising from a short upright rhizome.
Stem: Pseudostem formed of the overlapping leaf-bases, 1.5-5 m. tall.
Leaves: Leaf-blades erect or spreading, forming a large rosette, oblong-lanceolate, to 5 × 1.5 m., glaucous or not, midrib red or green.
Inflorescences: Inflorescence appearing from the centre of the rosette, pendulous when mature.
Bracts: Bracts of the male part of the inflorescence persistent or partially deciduous, each subtending ± 30-40 flowers. Bracts of the female/hermaphrodite part of the inflorescence persistent, partially covering the fruits.
Male: Bracts of the male part of the inflorescence persistent or partially deciduous, each subtending ± 30-40 flowers. Outer tepal of male flowers 3-lobed, the lobes variable in length, 3.5-5.5 cm. long, white with orange-yellow tips; inner tepal serrate-apiculate, 1-1.5 × 1-1.7 cm., the apiculum 0.3-1.3 cm., or occasionally absent; stamens 5, 3-5 cm. long, anthers violet to purple, filaments white; staminode present or not, acicular, 0.1-1 cm. long; style acicular, 1-2 cm. long.
Flowers: Outer tepal 3-lobed, sometimes with 1-2 smaller extra acicular lobes attached to it internally; inner tepals 1-3, variable in shape with 2 wings and an apiculum up to 1.5 cm. long; stamens 0-5, 3.5 cm. long, coloured as in the male flowers; staminodes variable according to the number of stamens present; style 2.5-4 cm. long, terete, with a large capitate stigma. Outer tepal of male flowers 3-lobed, the lobes variable in length, 3.5-5.5 cm. long, white with orange-yellow tips; inner tepal serrate-apiculate, 1-1.5 × 1-1.7 cm., the apiculum 0.3-1.3 cm., or occasionally absent; stamens 5, 3-5 cm. long, anthers violet to purple, filaments white; staminode present or not, acicular, 0.1-1 cm. long; style acicular, 1-2 cm. long.
Female and Hermaphrodite: Outer tepal 3-lobed, sometimes with 1-2 smaller extra acicular lobes attached to it internally; inner tepals 1-3, variable in shape with 2 wings and an apiculum up to 1.5 cm. long; stamens 0-5, 3.5 cm. long, coloured as in the male flowers; staminodes variable according to the number of stamens present; style 2.5-4 cm. long, terete, with a large capitate stigma. Bracts of the female/hermaphrodite part of the inflorescence persistent, partially covering the fruits.
Fruits: Fruits 5-20 in the axil of each bract, long-obovoid, 8-15 × 3-4.5 cm., orange at maturity.
Seeds: Seeds irregularly subspherical, 1.2-2.3 × 1.2-1.8 × 0.9-1.6 cm., striate to smooth, hard, black, embedded in orange pulp.
Habitat: Disturbed places in upland forest, often in ravines and on steep slopes, or in swamps and on river banks, but also sometimes in drier lowland forests; 900-2250 m.
Distribution: K3 K4 K5 T2 T3 T4 T6 T7 U1 U2 U4 poorly represented in herbaria because of the difficulty of making collectionsEthiopia and Cameroon south to Angola and South Africa (Transvaal)
[Source: Musaceae, J.M. Lock. Flora of Tropical East Africa. 1993]

World wide distribution

Approximately eight species are reported in this genus, among them only one species E. ventricosum, is economically important. This plant species can be found in the different ago-ecological region in the African countries in both wild and domesticated forms. Most of the wild species are distributed from the Ethiopian highlands to Malawi, while domesticated cultivars only found in Ethiopia. However, Cheesman (1947) reported there were 20 Ensete species grown in around the world. There were numerous diversity reported among the enset landraces. Three Enset species found in mainland Africa, Ensete homblei, E. livingstonianum and E. ventricosum, while, E. perrieri, restricted to Madagascar. Among them E. ventricosum appears to be the most widespread and abundant in Africa, occurring over much of Central, South East and East Africa. Whilst the contemporary distribution reaches as far North as the Ethiopian Highlands, there are suggestions that Enset was known to Egyptians. By comparison, distribution records for E. homblei, E. livingstonianum and their numerous synonyms in the historical records are sparse. E. livingstonianum appears to be a species of drier habitats, with a more Westerly distribution than E. ventricosum, although they are likely to be sympatric over at least a portion of their range. E. homblei is recorded from only a handful of locations in the South Eastern Congo, and neighbouring Northern Zambia.

Taxonomic Position

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 taxon. 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. [Source: wikipedia]

    Scientific classification
        Kingdom: Plantae
          Clade: Angiosperms
            Clade: Monocots
              Clade: Commelinids
                Order: Zingiberales
                  Family: Musaceae
                    Genus: Ensete
                      Species: E. ventricosum
     Binomial name : Ensete ventricosum (Welw.) Cheesman

It is possible to separate Ensete into its African and Asian species.
Africa
         Ensete gilletii
         Ensete homblei
         Ensete perrieri - endemic to Madagascar but intriguingly like the Asian E. glaucum
         Ensete ventricosum - enset or false banana, widely cultivated as a food plant in Ethiopia
Asia
         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

Genetic Diversity

Enset was widely domesticated and conserved for ensure the food security over the Ethiopian region. However, Cheesman (1947) reported there were 20 Ensete species grown in around the world, but there were numerous diversity reported among the enset landraces. Most of the wild species are distributed from the Ethiopian highlands to Malawi, while domesticated cultivars only found in Ethiopia. In order to conservation of enset germplasm both in ex situ and in vitro methods, several studied have been conducted during last few decades, including germplasm collection, characterization, estimate genetic diversity and farm based survey. Taboge (1997) reported huge variation among 79 enset accessions those were collected from different parts of the Ethiopia. Bekele et al. (2013) categorized 120 distinct enset cultivars into 11 broad clusters based on the nine important agronomical traits. Similarly, several authors have highlighted considerable phenotypic variation in enset germplasm (Yemataw et al 2012, Yemataw et al 2014; Yeshitla 2014 ). The enset gene bank centre at Areka Agricultural Research Centre, Ethiopia, has collected and preserved 623 enset landraces from 12 major enset growing regions of Ethiopia (Yemataw et al 2017).

Economical Importance

Enset has great economical impact, it is the staple food for 18% of the Ethiopian population. It also sources of fiber. The plant is low in protein; it is basically source of carbohydrate, so it is use as carbohydrate sources for the Ethiopian people. Starchy material is harvested from the stem, pseudo stem, and corm. The corm is treated as a potato, and cooked by boiling. It is called "amicho." The starchy material that comes out of the leaf sheaths is called "kocho." It is fermented into a starchy dough, and used to make bread of the same name. The pulp of the leftover stem and leaf sheaths is squeezed for its juice. This can be made into a drink called "bulla", aka "atmit" or used for a porridge or other dishes, or evaporated to leave behind a white powder that can be stored. Often Enset cultivated as an ornamental plant. It has gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit. A good quality Enset fibre, suitable for ropes, twine, baskets, and general weaving, is obtained from the leaves. Dried leaf-sheaths are used as packing material, serving the same function as Western foam plastic and polystyrene. The entire plant but the roots is used to feed livestock. Fresh leaves are a common fodder for cattle during the dry season, and a lot of farmers feed their animals with residues of enset harvest or processing.

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  Processing fiber from enset     Starch processing from Enset rhizome      Enset leaf ready for transpotation

Genetics and Genomics

In general the enset genome is diploid and composed with 9 chromosomes (n=9). Roughly its genome size is 547 Mb. Unfortunately, there has not enough amount of research work has been done on the genome and genomics level of this multipurpose and staple food crop for 20 million people of the Ethiopia. Consequently there are very little known about the genome and genomics of Ensete species, this knowledge gap offer the opportunity to dig in site in to genome and genomics of this crop species. Recently, the genome of Ensete ventricosum has been sequenced (Harrison et al 2014) and the draft genome can be accessed through Sequence Read Archive (accession number SRX202265) and GenBank (accessionnumber AMZH02). E. ventricosum genome was sequenced using Illumina sequencing technology and generated 40.4 gigabased shortgun sequencing data, which consisting of 202 million pairs of 100-nucleotide long raw reads. Raw reads were de novo assembled in to 123779 scaffolds containing 459 Mb sequences. In addition, another three genomes are available in NCBI. [Source: Ensete review article]

Cultivated Variety

List of Cultivated Landraces of Enset
Abakita Badadet Dima Guariye Nechwe Shifere Yegondiye
Achachet Bashalga Dinkinet Horate Orate Tatarata Yesherakinke
Achora Bazariya Edemert Inniba Qeso Teganen Zoober
Agade Bishaganchwe Emeriye Jobra Qore Tereriye  
Amerat Bishamerat Ferezye Kekeso Quashquashye Umbati  
Anhauriye Bishastara Ganchwe Lemad Quiminar Usmail  
Ankafuye Busara Gimbowa Lemat Sebara Waka  
Astara Chachata Guadamerat Moyete Separa Wanadiye  
Awugne Dere Guadbadadet Nechisedi Shertiye Worke dima