Musa coccinea painted onto Chinese wallpaper at Chatsworth

According to Chatsworth legend, Joseph Paxton was inspired to grow a banana by one he saw depicted on Chinese wallpaper in a bedroom at Chatsworth. For nearly a hundred years the story was thought to be a myth, as nobody could find the painted banana.

Then, in the 1920s, Duchess Evelyn moved a large four-poster bed and the banana was revealed. The plant Paxton bought was Musa acuminata ‘Dwarf Cavendish’, which is the species we still grow in the Display House today. However, in the process of the Duke's sister, Lady Emma Tennant’s research for her current exhibition of watercolours in the New Gallery at Chatsworth (until 30 June 2013), she had the banana on the painted wallpaper identified by a botanist at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, who named it as Musa coccinea.

Musa coccinea is a decorative banana species; it does not produce edible fruits. It is planted for aesthetic value because of its bright red flower bracts and interesting wide evergreen or blue-green leaves with smooth textures. They are also referred to as the Scarlet banana and originate from Vietnam. Edinburgh Botanical Gardens have kindly donated a plant to our collection here at Chatsworth, so we look forward to seeing some of these fabulous plants flowering in the Display House in the garden the not too distant future.

If you are in the vicinity of the Display House at Chatsworth this month, take a moment to have a look at the Musa acuminata ‘Dwarf Cavendish’ banana which is currently laden with fruit.

Lucy Wharton
Horticultural Technician

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