Banana, common name for any of a genus of tropical, tree-like herbaceous plants and also for their fruit. Species of the genus are native to South East Asia but are now grown extensively in all tropical countries for their fruit, fibre, or foliage. The banana is a large, herbaceous perennial with a plant rhizome (underground stem), from which the plant is perpetuated by sprouts or suckers. In the tropics the stems are annual that is, they die after the fruit ripens, and new stems are developed from buds on the rhizome. These buds are the common means of propagating and making new plantations, and the growth is so rapid that the fruit is usually ripe within ten months after the offsets are planted. When fully grown the stem reaches a height of 3 to 12 m (10 to 40 ft) and is surmounted by a crown of large oar-shaped leaves up to 3 m (10 ft) long, with a strong fleshy stalk and midrib. The flowers are borne in great spikes from the centre of the crown of leaves and are arranged in whorls along the spike; the female flowers occupy the base of the spike, and the males the apex. The fruits vary in length from about 10 to 30 cm (4 to 12 in). The average weight of a bunch is about 11 kg (25 lb), but individual bunches often exceed 18 kg (40 lb). A stem bears only once, dies down, and is replaced by sprouts, two or three of which are allowed to bear fruit.

The fruit of the plantain, or cooking banana, is larger, coarser, and less sweet than the kinds that are generally eaten raw. The edible part of a banana contains, on average, 75 per cent water, 21 per cent carbohydrate, and about 1 per cent each of fat, protein, fibre, and ash. Other parts of the plant abound in fibre, which can be used in the manufacture of paper and cordage. One species is the source of Manila hemp (abaca). The cooking banana may serve as a raw material for starch manufacture. The starch content is about 25%. The granule size is in the range 5 - 70 microns - a little smaller than potato starch and amore elongated - but it resembles corn starch in paste characteristics like gelatinizing  temperature and gel strength, but with higher peak viscosity. The starch is difficult to extract. It may be grated easily, but the rasping is fibrous and starch yield is extremely low with known technics.

Half of the world's banana crops are grown in Africa, and much of the produce is used locally. The leading banana-export regions are Central America and northern South America.

Scientific classification: Bananas make up the genus Musa of the family Musaceae. The plantain, or cooking banana, is classified as Musa x paradisiaca. The Manila hemp or abaca is classified as Musa textilis.