Ravenala madagascariensis
Common Name: traveller's tree 
Type: Broadleaf evergreen
Family: Strelitziaceae
Native Range: Madagascar
Zone: 10 to 11
Height: 30.00 to 50.00 feet
Spread: 15.00 to 25.00 feet
Bloom Time: Seasonal bloomer
Bloom Description: White
Sun: Full sun
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Medium
Flower: Showy, Good Dried
Leaf: Evergreen
Fruit: Showy
Other: Winter Interest

Culture

Winter hardy to USDA Zones 10-11 where it is best grown in deep, fertile, organically rich, moderately moist, well-drained loams in full sun. If root suckers are not removed, plants will lose their tree-like form as foliage clusters form. Dislikes temperatures that fall below 60 degrees F. and will not tolerate temperatures below 40 degrees F. Shelter from strong winds. Where not winter hardy, plants may be grown in greenhouses. Propagate by seed or division or suckers/offsets.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Ravenala madagascariensis, commonly called traveller's tree or traveller's palm, is a large tree-like plant which is native to moist forests in Madagascar where it will grow over time to 30-50' tall. It has now been planted in frost free areas around the world, including far southern Florida into the Keys, southern Texas, southern California and Hawaii. This plant features an unbranched trunk (to 12" diameter) which is topped by a fan-shaped single plane of enormous, long-stalked, banana-like, deep green leaves (20-30 per trunk). Each leaf blade is 5-10' long by 2-3' wide and appears at the end of a thick, grooved leaf stalk (petiole) which is as long or longer than the leaf blade. Leaf margins are sometimes split as is the case with some bananas. Up to one quart of rain water will accumulate in the expanded and cupped base of each leaf stalk, thus giving rise to the common names for this plant which suggests an emergency drinking water source for travellers in need. Showy 3-petaled white flowers in cymes rise from boat-shaped spathes in a manner reminiscent of this plant's bird-of-paradise (Strelitzia) relative. Flowers bloom in summer plus sporadically throughout the rest of the year. Flowers are followed by woody capsules (to 3 1/2" long) containing edible seeds covered by bright blue arils. In early years, the trunk of this plant is subterranean (not visible), with the fan of leaves sitting on the ground. Eventually the trunk does appear and lengthen, with somewhat attractive leaf scar rings forming on the trunk surface as the lower leaves drop.

Genus name comes from the native name in Madagascar.

Specific epithet means of Madagascar.

Problems

No serious insect or disease problems. Leaves may be shredded by strong wind. Leaf spot can be significant. Root rot. Spider mites.

Garden Uses

Where winter hardy, this unique specimen is often too large for home landscapes. It is an excellent and showy accent for parks, large landscapes or commercial properties where it has room to grow. Best sited in areas where sky (rather than trees or buildings) is in the background so that the outstanding ornamental characteristics of this plant can be best observed. May be grown in containers placed on a patio or other sunny location (container helps control size). Containers are difficult to overwinter indoors in climates where plants are not winter hardy.