Nova Scotia

It's bananas: The Halifax Public Gardens is bearing tropical fruit

The plant that's winning the popularity contest in the Halifax Public Gardens this summer is not an agave. It's a fruity plant that's also from the sunny south.

The newest show-stopper is the favourite fruit that's commonly grown in hot countries

The cluster of bananas is being naturally protected from snackers by a prickly pineapple. (Natalie Dobbin/CBC)

You could toss together a tasty fruit salad from the bananas, pineapple and oranges growing at Halifax Public Gardens.

That is, if you were allowed to touch the tropical plants: Picking the fruit is forbidden.

For the first time in approximately a decade or more, a dwarf banana plant is producing a bunch — a showy addition to the Victorian garden in the heart of Halifax, said Heidi Boutilier, horticultural supervisor for the municipality. 

The exotic fruit-bearing plants have been planted together in a bed just east of the horticultural hall, along a path near the bandstand.

Despite the lush foliage of the coffee plant, the trendiness of the fig tree, and the delicate scent from an orange tree, it's the banana plant — with its iconic elongated fruit and large purple cone-shaped blossom that's stopping visitors in their tracks.

"You can see my grass is ruined right here rivalling the agave," said Boutilier, referring to the tropical succulent that was so wildly popular, it had its own social media account last summer, and had people lining up to snap up its seeds.

The grass is dead next to the dwarf banana plant. (Paul Poirier/CBC )

To protect the bananas from hungry snackers, a pink pineapple has been strategically planted next to it — the prickly plant is on guard duty.

"The pineapple leaves are serrated on the edges and if you run your hand along it you'll get a little cut," she said.

It's hard to pinpoint what triggered the plant to produce bananas this summer, but a plant that is damaged or dying, or a change in temperature or sunlight, can spark reproductive growth, Boutilier said.

Unlike the Dartmouth palm trees which were covered up and left outside for the winter, these ornamental fruit plants will be dug up at the end of the season, and will spend the cold months in the greenhouse until next year.

She said displaying unusual plants is in keeping with the history of the 152-year-old garden which was created as a place for botanical learning.

The bananas started to appear in March and have been slow to ripen. With sustained heat, Boutilier said they may turn yellow, and should be available for view until late September.

Staff might try one to see if they're edible. If they pass the taste test, she expects the bunches of bananas will be donated, along with the harvest from a vegetable bed, to local soup kitchens.


Elizabeth Chiu is a reporter in Nova Scotia and hosts Atlantic Tonight on Saturdays at 7 p.m., 7:30 p.m. in Newfoundland. If you have a story idea for her, contact her at