Traveler’s Tree

Ravenala madagascariensis (Strelitziaceae)

Characteristics

Monocotyledonous plant, up to 30 m tall, in the Zingiberales order, related to Heliconia (#82, #83), Musa (Banana, #24), Zingiberaceae (Ginger, #44, #109) and Strelitzia (Bird-of-paradise). Sometimes called “Traveler’s palm”, it is not a palm (Arecaceae).

The enormous, 20-35, paddle-shaped leaves, up to 11 m long, are borne on long petioles, in a distinctive fan shape aligned in a single plane (distichous). Large, white flowers with a green bract. Seeds brilliant blue. As the plant grows older, it progressively loses the lowest or oldest leaves and reveals a sturdy grey trunk.

Distribution

Native to Madagascar. Cultivated around the world in warm regions as an ornamental.

Natural Medical Properties

No known.

Did you know?

It has been given the name “Traveler’s tree” because the sheaths of the stems hold rainwater, which supposedly could be used as an emergency drinking supply for needy travelers. However, the water inside the plant is murky, black and smelly and should not be consumed without purification.

Further reading:

Literature

World Flora Online
WorldChecklist of Selected Plant Families
A working list of all plant species