Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/503

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

and, separating more and more, at length falls away, leaving a scar to mark its place, and, just within the scar, a group of tubular, pale yellow flowers. Their petals soon wither and fall away, leaving the ovaries as a row of tiny bananas which will become one of the "hands" of the future bunch. Thus successive bracts fall away from the bud and successive rows of bananas appear. But after a time, though the bracts continue to fall and to uncover new flower clusters, these are found to be sterile, and young-fruits are no longer formed. A bud may, then, contain only two or three fertile bracts, or it may have as many as fifteen or more

PSM V44 D503 Butt of banana plant with eye and set ready for planting.jpg
Fig. 1.—Butt of Banana Plant, with "Eye," and "Set" ready for Planting.

—that is, the number of fruit clusters in the ripened bunch may vary between those extremes. The development of sterile flowers continues indefinitely. Each bract, as it falls, uncovers a fresh group to furnish pollen for the impregnation of the fertile flowers of a neighboring plant, as those of their own bunch, uncovered first, have already received the fructifying stimulus from a neighbor. Thus Nature provides for the cross-fertilization on which, as Mr. Darwin first showed us, she lays so much stress, sending the fecundating dust from plant to plant by those loveliest and swiftest of her messengers, the humming birds, and rewarding