Tag Archives: China

Golden Lotus Banana

8 Apr

On a recent visit to Rome’s Botanical Garden, I walked past an elbow-high plant with a stunning yellow orb unfurling on top of a sturdy stem, and did a double take.

The foliage looked like that of a banana plant, but I had never seen a banana plant with such a glorious eminence perched atop layers of golden yellow “petals” before. It didn’t like look at all like the growing tip of a regular banana plant, or even like the part most people think of as the flower:

Upon closer inspection, however, it did have a familiar feature–the tiny flowers characteristic of banana plants. That’s because the Ensete lasiocarpa (also known as Musa/Musella lasiocarpa* and commonly known as Golden Lotus Banana, Chinese Dwarf Banana) is closely related to the edible banana we know, though it does not produce edible fruit. It is an ornamental banana native to the Yunnan province in China. As mentioned in a previous post, what looks like a flower is actually an inflorescence consisting of layers of bracts (the golden yellow petal-like parts), with rows of the actual, very small  flowers nestled in between. You can see the small, elongated banana flowers in photos 1, 3, and 4.

The ornamental banana is known as a Golden Lotus Banana because its unfurled, ethereal brachts are said to resemble the petals of a lotus flower, which is known as a Sacred Lotus. I think the closed inflorescence of the Ensete lasiocarpa  and the closed bud of a lotus flower also look alike. And it may be no coincidence that the Golden Lotus Banana was a sacred plant of Buddhist monks.


* There have been some disagreements as to nomenclature.

Postcard from China: A Local Food Market

25 May

There are many things I like to do and see when I travel. Museums and art galleries and historical sights and picturesque landscapes rank right up there, but some of the most memorable pleasures are gastronomic. I like tasting my way through a new place–and the corollary to that is that I also like visiting food markets (and even grocery stores) to see foods whose names I may only have read about. And any chance to marvel at food artisans in action is a good one. I recently was in Beijing for meetings, and had the very nice and unexpected opportunity the following weekend to stop by a food market near Xiangheyuan Road with some of our close friends. Oh, the sights to behold! The food, the vendors, and of course, the noodle maker….

Market scene; Dried spices/teas
Choice cuts

Chinese yams

Garlic shoots; Dragon Fruit

Assortment of bean curd products

Prepared food vendor; Egg vendor

… And the noodle maker in action.