Ten Extremely Rare Seeds on the Brink of Extinction
The Millennium Seed Bank has set out to collect 25 percent of the world's plant species by 2020—before it is too late
- By Megan Gambino
- Smithsonian.com, May 14, 2012
(Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew)
Name: Yunnan wild banana (Musa itinerans)
Status: Native to China’s Yunnan province, this wild pink banana is vulnerable, according to the IUCN’s Red List.
Threats: Deforestation is the biggest threat to the species. The mountainous forest habitat of Musa itinerans, a wild relative of the domesticated banana, is being razed for commercial agriculture.
Impact: Asian elephants are losing a staple food source—and we may be too . As far as bananas go, we have put most of our energies into cultivating one variety for consumption, the Cavendish. Yet a fungus has run rampant in that species. Since t he Yunnan wild banana is a close relative to the bananas and plantains we consume, and it has proven to resist common banana diseases, it could be useful in breeding new varieties.
Interesting Side Note: Musa itinerans was the 24,200th species to be stored, a milestone for the seed bank . When the seeds were collected in 2009, it meant that the bank had met its initial goal of conserving 10 percent of the world’s species by 2010.
Learn more about Yunnan wild bananas at the Encyclopedia of Life.