Orangutan holding a banana in her mouth.

Go Bananas!

Banana bunch growing on a banana tree,

Are you one of the many people (and animals!) that love bananas? How much do you know about this weird and wonderful fruit? Believe it or not, bananas don’t grow on trees…they don’t have a true trunk. The long, stout structure that holds leaves and fruit is called a pseudostem. A banana plant is actually a giant herb.

Small green bananas.

Taking shape

We’re all used to seeing the yellow curved fruit, but not all bananas take that shape. Some types grow long and straight. Others are round like a ball. But no matter what they look like, bananas take time to grow—the plant usually puts out about 40 leaves before it develops a flower and fruit.

A bunch or green and yellow bananas.

How to speak banana

A single plant can produce bunches of bananas, but not the "bunch" you see at the store. A single banana is called a finger. A grouping of attached "fingers" make up a "hand" of bananas. Multiple hands that grow in a cluster are called a bunch or stalk—a bunch of bananas may contain 3 to 20 hands!

Tamarin monkey enjoying a banana at the Zoo.

Bananas at the Zoo

The Zoo grows 24 different types of bananas. While we get some fruit off of them, we mostly grow them for the stalks and leaves, which we give to our primates and elephants to enjoy. Sometimes that means munching them, other times it means wearing one of the big leaves on their head!