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Ensete ventricosum

False banana

About the plant

Ensete ventricosum (Enset) is native to Ethiopia, and is a valuable staple across southern Ethiopia where it feeds an estimated 20 million people.

  • Least concern

    The International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species uses a set of criteria to evaluate the extinction risk of the world’s species. The ongoing mission is to evaluate every plant species in the world.

    IUCN Red List Status:

    Not yet evaluated
    Data deficient
    Least concern
    Near threatened
    Vulnerable
    Endangered
    Critically endangered
    Extinct in the wild
    Extinct
  • Animal food
    Plant is used as fodder to feed farm animals
  • Banked in the MSB
    Seeds from this plant have been banked in Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank, at Wakehurst in Sussex
  • Crop wild relative
    This wild plant is a relative of a domesticated food plant
  • Human food
    Plant supplies food for humans
  • Material
    Plant provides materials for manufacturing either fibre or timber
  • Click on icon to reveal more

Facts

  • Grows to 6–12m tall
  • Seeds probably dispersed by monkeys or birds
  • Striking purple midrib in some forms
  • Large decorative leaves

Feeding 20 million people

While it resembles its Asian cousin (the banana) E. ventricosum is not cultivated for its fruits, but rather for its vegetative parts.

It’s typically grown in smallholdings with other crops providing year-round food and balanced nutrition. Farmers report that 15 plants can feed a family of five for a whole year and it supports among the highest population densities in Africa.


Using the whole plant

People chop and grate the pulp from the leaf sheaths and pseudostems, using it as a flour for bread, porridge or soup. The underground stem (corm) is boiled and eaten like potatoes. The only parts that aren’t eaten are the roots. The leaves can be used for thatch, umbrellas, mats and wrapping materials or as animal fodder.


Crop wild relatives

Enset is a wild relative of banana. The main crops that feed the world today have been bred to cope with different threats, like disease resistant rice or drought tolerant corn. Crop wild relatives such as enset represent valuable gene pools that may help growers face future threats.

The large black seeds are used as beads and threaded to create necklaces and rosaries
  • Least concern

    The International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species uses a set of criteria to evaluate the extinction risk of the world’s species. The ongoing mission is to evaluate every plant species in the world.

    IUCN Red List Status:

    Not yet evaluated
    Data deficient
    Least concern
    Near threatened
    Vulnerable
    Endangered
    Critically endangered
    Extinct in the wild
    Extinct
  • Animal food
    Plant is used as fodder to feed farm animals
  • Banked in the MSB
    Seeds from this plant have been banked in Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank, at Wakehurst in Sussex
  • Crop wild relative
    This wild plant is a relative of a domesticated food plant
  • Human food
    Plant supplies food for humans
  • Material
    Plant provides materials for manufacturing either fibre or timber
  • Click on icon to reveal more