Morphotypes, distribution and uses of false banana in Uganda
Enset (Ensete ventricosum) is commonly known as the “false banana” because of its close resemblance to the domesticated banana (Musa spp.) plant. It is Ethiopia’s most important traditional staple crop in the densely populated south and south-western parts of the country; where it is grown and exploited for its starch to make various food and industrial products. In Uganda, little is known about enset regarding its ethno-botany and distribution, yet it occurs in the country. The objective of this study was to map out the distribution and document the ethno-botany and uses of enset in Uganda. A survey was carried out throughout the country to identify its natural habitats in different regions. Local people were interviewed on the uses of enset, etymology, and identification of different morphotypes. Morphological descriptors and sex of enset accessions were used in classification or identification of morphotypes. Enset was generally widely, but sparsely distributed in the different regions in Uganda; growing at elevations ranging between 988 (Moyo district) to 2,150 (Kapchorwa district) metres above sea level (masl) and in a variety of habitats. Out of the 80 districts of Uganda (as of 2009), enset was reported and observed in 30 districts. Thirteen local names of enset and their meanings were documented; but it was widely referred to as Kitembe. Different plant parts were used for medicinal purposes; while the leaves were used in local beer brewing. There were five enset morphotypes distinguished by morphological traits, such as plant height (short vs tall), mid-rib colour (light green vs pink), pseudostem background appearance (light green vs brown), leaf margin colour, male bud colour, and leaf length-breadth ratio. A detailed molecular level genetic diversity assessment is recommended for further validation of the morphotypes.
Key words: Ensete ventricosum, ethno-botany, etymology, morphotypes