Plantain is the common name for herbaceous plants of the genus Musa. The fruit they produce is generally used for cooking, in contrast to the soft, sweet banana (which is sometimes referred to as the dessert banana). There is no formal botanical distinction between bananas and plantains, and the use of either term is based purely on how the fruits are consumed. North America was first introduced to the fruit as "banana plantain", and in the United States and Europe "banana" generally refers to that variety. The word "banana" is sometimes used to describe other plantain cultivars, and names may reflect local uses or characteristics of cultivars: cooking plantain, banana plantain, beer banana, bocadillo plantain, etc. Plantains are classified formally as Musa acuminata, Musa balbisiana or hybrids Musa acuminata _ balbisiana, depending on their genomic constitution. The archaic scientific name Musa paradisiaca is no longer used.
Contributions by BluePencils, SCEhardt, and Renice.