Friday, April 30, 2010

Michelia figo, Banana Shrub

You know how some people have weird talents or abilities like being able to play Ravel's Bolero on their teeth, burp the national anthem or spell anything backwards? My husband has one, too. You're going to be impressed—he can tell if you've eaten a banana at any time within the last eight to ten hours.

It's true. "Ew," he says. "Have you been eating bananas again? Could you maybe sleep in the other room or something?" Okay, it's not quite like that, but I might as well eat a head of garlic. He hates the smell.

Knowing this about him, I didn't expect him to care for this banana-scented shrub, Michelia figo. Turns out it isn't the smell of bananas, but banana breath that he can't tolerate. I guess there's a distinction there most of us don't make. So we're good with the long as I don't eat any!*

Michelia is in the family Magnoliaceae. Maybe you can tell by the inside of the flower which is very similar to the more familiar southern magnolia, Magnolia grandiflora. It grows to 15 feet or so and makes a great understory tree in a shady or partly shady garden. The scent is like banana with a little something extra, candy sweet and yet not cloying. Remember Wacky Wafers? That's exactly the scent of banana shrub. The flowers are small but beautiful, and the fuzzy buds are a bonus. They're blooming now—sniff one and see if it takes you back to 1973, too.

* Floridata says all parts of Michelia figo are poisonous!

Magnolia Society International
Candy Addict remembers Wacky Wafers


  1. Hi, Daricia, Your photographs are amazing! I love fragrant flowers so maybe sometime I will get to smell this flower. Thanks for stopping by my blog; I thought you might enjoy my Lady's Slippers. :)

  2. We have one of these old southern favorites in the display garden at work. The aroma just sort of wafts across the nursery. If you stand too close to it for any length of time, it's almost too sweet.

  3. Your mom told me you had a blog! I have spent a lot of time viewing your archives and I loved all the posts. Wonderful photographs and good gardening information.

    I'm glad I found you.