Species Name
 Ensete ventricosum (E. edule)1


Local Name(s)
Enset, Guna-guna, Koba (Amargna), Koba, Weke, Wese (Oromiffa), Uta, Yecha (Wolayetgna), Wild Banana (English)

General description
a leafy herb 6 - 12m, swollen below, the 'false stem' formed by the leaf bases. The large leaves grow in spirals, each one to 6m long and 1m wide, bright green with a thick pink-red midrib and short red stalk. The leaf blades tear with age. Flowers are found in large hanging heads 2- 3m long, the white flowers with one petal protected by large dark red bracts, 5 stamens produce sticky pollen. The fruits, although looking like normal bananas, arranged in small yellow clusters, are not edible. Each leathery fruit, about 9cm long, contains many hard seeds, brown-black to 2cm long with only a thin layer of pulp. The whole plant dies down after fruiting.

Edible part(s), preparation methods and palatability
'false stem' is edible. In Wolayta, North Omo Zone, at times of hardship, the corm (root and stem juncture) and fleshy pseudo-stem2 (false-stem) of immature 'enset' plants are harvested and consumed. A meal or flour is made from the pulp inside the stem and rootstock. As the corm and the pseudo-stem are decorticated, the 'enset' plants have to be destroyed. 'Enset', commonly found in home gardens in parts of Southern and Western Ethiopia, reaches maturity after about eight years depending on the type of clones planted and the local agro-ecology. But many farmers are forced to harvest and destroy the plant before it reaches physiological maturity, which consequently leads not only to the total destruction of the crop but also affects the quality and quantity of the food products obtained. Sometimes, when there is an acute shortage of food, farmers may even consume seedlings and saplings of 'enset' (Shank & Chernet, 1996). 

like the common banana, this fleshy tree is a giant herb. Outside Ethiopia it also grows in the Sudan, East and Central Africa and in a few suitable places in South Africa. It grows in wet upland valleys and ravines and along streams in the forests of lower mountain slopes (1,600 - 2,400m). In south-central Ethiopia 'enset' is extensively cultivated for food up to 3,000m in moist and wet mid- and highlands. 

Propagation Method(s) 
propagates by suckers.

Sample location (s)

Ensete differs from the true banana, in the terminal head of flowers and by dying after flowering. Pollination is commonly brought about by bats transferring the sticky pollen.

No Photo! 

1 Parts of the following description have been taken from Bekele-Tesemma et al., 1993: p. 210/211
2 The pseudo-stem is "the 'tree trunk' formed by the bases of the leaves of the leaf sheaths adhering to one another in concentric fashion" (Shank & Chernet, 1996: p.2)


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