Saturday, September 5, 2009
The Unfortunate Sex Life of the Banana
No, this is not a dirty post. You guys have got to read this.
I found it several days ago via one of Guy Kawasaki's Alltop tweets, and haven't been able to get it out of my mind. Maybe you already know about it but this is new to me.
The banana is not a "normal" fruit but (pretty much) a sterile mutant! It's a hybrid that's genetically defective since it cannot reproduce sexually (see parthenocarpy). Think about how farmers grow bananas - not from planting seeds, but from suckering shoots and parts of the underground stem. This "defective" plant (world's largest herb!) has been cultivated for more than 10,000 years and has had quite a history. However, certain popular banana breeds are also under threat and extinction from chemical-resistant fungi.
Navel oranges (my favourite) are also a sterile mutant. In the 1800s, one orange tree in Brazil developed fruit that were unusually sweet, and each had an underdeveloped Siamese "twin" embedded, which gave rise to the "navel" appearance. However it was seedless, so it was unable to reproduce like other orange trees. So its caretakers grafted some of its limbs onto other trees to grow more of it, and til today, this botanical surgery is how we grow navel orange trees! Every navel orange you see is effectively a clone. Wow, the original clone army! Lama Su of Kamino would have been impressed!
Just by the way - have you ever tried to sniff or gnaw at that little Siamese twin inside the navel orange?
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