Pembroke Plants #1: The Banana Tree

Lola’s is not the only slice of tropical paradise in Cambridge – tucked away by the JP, there stands a Japanese fibre banana tree (which actually originates from Southern China rather than Japan), also known as Musa Basjoo. Sadly, the tree is only ornamental: the bananas would be pulpy and seedy and inedible, if they were ever even allowed hot enough circumstances to grow. Another Musa Basjoo plant at Clare flowered and bore fruit in 2006 and 2016 after spates of great weather. Here’s to hoping that the Pembroke plant can catch up soon if the weather permits.

Interestingly, the tree is monocarpic, meaning that it dies once it bears fruit, leaving behind smaller ‘pups’ that grow up to become Tree Jr. The banana tree is, for me, one of the most striking and memorable things about Pembroke, and it was the first thing I noticed when I moved in. Something about its exoticism, especially given its surprising East Asian origins, feels oddly satisfying. Even though it is well established as part of the Pembroke scenery, it’s pleasantly surprising every time you pass by. The planting of the bed that it’s in is dreamy – both tropical and local plants surround the tree, and it fits in without fading away. It is also well settled into the college atmosphere - like most Pembroke students, it is practically impossible.

The Pembroke gardens have clearly been planted with such care that is most definitely worth taking a five-minute walk in them to notice the finer details. See if you can find the bed of succulents and jet-black grass which are particularly lovely.

In other plant related news, the Old Court grass is doing well. Gone are the days when it was a slightly lacklustre square of soil. It just keeps going from strength to strength (hopefully inspiring its students to do the same)!

Anki Deo is a first year Economist