"Scientifically this is pretty exciting. Over the last three years we've grown 50 plants of this variety and each one does the same thing. This is real."
—Richard Wallace

To Grow Where No Banana Plant Has Grown Before

Richard Wallace has gone bananas. The professor of organic chemistry took a detour from his research seven years ago and has never looked back. Since then, Wallace's work has been driven by a curiosity to identify a banana plant variety that can grow and produce edible fruit in southeast Georgia's cooler than tropical climate. Recently, Wallace and two collaborators at the University of Georgia-Tifton have identified a variety that holds great promise.

The variety, known as Veinte Cohol, has displayed consistent results over three years of research: a two-foot stem gets planted in early May and quickly grows to produce mature fruit in October. That a relatively obscure variety of banana can produce fruit in south Georgia has long-term implications for gardeners and commercial growers in the region.

"Scientifically this is pretty exciting," Wallace said. "Over the last three years we've grown 50 plants of this variety and each one does the same thing. This is real."

The path to finding Veinte Cohol started in Wallace's backyard more than seven years ago and has been forged by scientific inquiry as much as a passion and curiosity about "growing things that didn't belong here." Wallace's next goal is to increase Veinte Cohol's fruit yield, which now stands at about 15 pounds per plant, and make it even more cold resistant.

Another clear benefit of the research is that many students have had the opportunity to be a part of this real world research and experience. "One of the nice things about this type of research is that it is so attractive to students," Wallace said. "For our biology and chemistry students this is something they find unique and exciting."