Mai'a Banana | Hawaiian Plant Life

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Mai‘a (Banana)

There are over 140 varieties of banana found in Hawaiʻi. In ancient Hawaiʻi, it was kapu (forbidden) for women to eat most types of banana.


Maiʻa was not cultivated on a large scale, but served many significant cultural and medicinal uses. They are the kinolau (physical manifestation) of the god Kanaloa, who is associated with healing as well as the ocean/ocean voyages. Burnt banana leaves can be used to treat heartburn, and dried sap and ash can aid in relieving shortness of breath.


Superstitions dating back to the 1700s state that bringing bananas on boats is bad luck, so be sure to leave any bananas at home if you are planning to spend some time on the water! There are a few possibilities as to where this belief stems from. Ethylene gas released by ripening bananas repels fish, so fishermen who bring a banana with their lunch may have a lower rate of catch. It also causes other fruits to ripen quickly, so ships carrying bananas could see other fruit shipments on board begin to rot. Additionally, bananas float, so after shipwrecks they can be seen eerily floating amongst the wreckage.

Bananas are technically an herb, not a tree!

common Name


Scientific Name

Musa x paradisiaca


Canoe Plant (Polynesian Introduction)

where to find

Tropical low elevation environments

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