This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V24", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
"D. B. W.," Crockett's Bluff, Arkansas, writes: "You say 'it is generally known that the ordinary banana never produces seed.' ' The fruit is a pulpy seed vessel, but the seeds never perfect.' I can hardly think this entirely correct. There must be some place where this plant perfects seeds, else where do the varieties come from ? I have found instances of individual plants of a polygamous species, like the persimmon or grape, that produced fine fruit containing no seeds, but had supposed that all plants that produce what are commonly termed fruits also produced, at least some of the plants of the same species, perfect seeds. I believe we have plants that flower but give no seeds; also plants that neither flower nor produce seeds. For instance we have a rank growing three-sided and very common sedge in the Illinois river swamps that produces neither seeds nor blossoms. I am also informed that the 'cane' of the Southern 'cane-brakes' neither flowers nor seeds; also the 'sugar cane.' The sweet potato shows no bloom in the Middle States, but it must give bloom and seed somewhere. With the cane of the 'cane-brake' I have heard the rumor that it does not bear seed, disputed. As a fact I found young, small isolated plants of it everywhere in South-western Arkansas, seemingly seedlings.
The query results, do not all species bear seeds under certain conditions? Or are there some that only reproduce their kind by self-division ?"
[When a botanist or gardener says " never," he seldom means that there is no possibility of an exception. He simply means that this is the rule within a very wide experience. There is little doubt but that the banana has produced sometime during its existence, and possibly would seed, - perhaps does seed at times somewhere on the earth at the present time. There are perfect female flowers and perfect grains of pollen ; it is only necessary that some conditions occur in addition to these to make the flowers seminally fruitful. For all this it is true so far as we know, that no person living ever saw a banana seed.
Varieties, however, are not necessarily produced from seed. We received once from the editor of the Prairie Farmer, a bunch of sweet potatoes, all attached as they grew to one parent stem, in which half the tubers were tapering and white, and the other half blunt and red. But this plant never flowers under Illinois culture. The kinds originated as many other things do, by "bud-variation". - Ed. G. M].