Botanic Gardens Trust, Sydney, Australia

Ensete ventricosum

The Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney - June

Common name Abyssinian banana, Ethiopian banana
Scientific name Ensete ventricosum (Welw.) Cheesm.
Family  Musaceae

Genus: Ensete - from the local Abyssinian name.

Species: ventricosum - Latin - big-bellied, pot bellied. Referring to the big trunk.

Distribution Central and East Africa, south to Transvaal.
Native habitat High rainfall forests on mountains, along forested ravines and streams.
Description 8-12 m high, massive trunked non woody evergreen perennial with large banana-like leaf blades up to 5 m long x 1 m wide. Salmon pink midrib. Flowers in massive pendant thyrses covered by large pink bracts. Fruits similar to domestic banana are edible but insipid, containing hard, black seeds. The plant that produces a flower later dies.
Flowering/fruiting Ensete ventricosum usually flowers when 4 to 5 years old.

Location in Garden

Growing in beds 33b, 41a, 41b, 41c and various other locations in Sydney. Click here for map of garden beds & grid.


Ensete ventricisum has been making a bold landscape statement in Sydney for many years.

This is an important food plant in Africa with each rhizome yielding up to 40 kg of food. The growing point yields young, tender tissues which are very nutritious. Fermenting pulverised parts of the stem yields a food that is eaten like porridge. A quality fibre obtained from the leaves makes rope, twine and is suitable for basket weaving. The whole plant is used to feed livestock.

Ensete ventricosum is a dramatic plant in any landscape and is surprisingly drought tolerant once established. Intolerant of frost.

Propagate from suckers or seed. Generally not a weed problem.

Currently available from the Growing Friends nursery. 

Ensete ventricosum