A Banana-Like Large Tree
by Phil Bergman
Description of Article
This article is a brief introduction to the Traveler Palm, Ravenala madagascarensis. This tree is a unique banana-like plant that gets to a medium height, gets wide and soft leaves on long stems and forms a trunk. Most uniquely, all the leaves form in one plane. So, it looks rather flat when viewed from the front and quite thin from the side. If you want to try this in your garden, you must be frost free. Read below on how to grow it.
Most people are fascinated by this large, banana-like plant that has wide, long and soft leaves that tower overhead. And, the fact the leaves of the Traveler Palm are all aligned in one plane fascinates viewers. But I must first mention that this species is not a palm at all! Rather, it is part of the Bird of Paradise family. It got its common name of “Traveler Palm” (aka Traveller Palm) because the leaf bases would catch and hold water for thirsty travelers. Compared to the Giant Bird of Paradise, it’s so much nicer. It’s less maintenance, is not invasive and prettier. But, the downside is that Ravenala madagascarensis doesn’t survive a freeze. Below I’m giving a quick introduction to this species with comments on culture and who can grow them.
DESCRIPTION OF RAVENALA MADAGASCARENSIS, THE TRAVELER PALM
Type of Plant:
A suckering plant in the Bird of Paradise family. Most people remove the suckers and, over time, have a single trunk specimen as shown below.
Along the coast can take full or part sun. Inland areas can also grow in full sun or partial sun. But, in the desert, it would want filtered light.
In our locality it reaches heights of about twenty feet. In the tropical it can get up to thirty feet or more.
The leaves are paddle-like on long stems, green in color and soft and pliable to touch. There are no spines. The leaf stems are very long, sometimes over six feet. When pruning off old dead leaves, these leaf bases can almost be cut with a butter knife.
The trunk of the Traveler Palm over time does become woody and brown in color. It typically has a diameter of about 12 inches.
Note that these plants will form offsets or suckers. It is best to remove these or you’ll end up with a clump of multiple plants.
It succumbs at temperatures below 32 degrees. Literally, this species will die overnight. So, don’t get it for outdoor growing if you always freeze.
Medium to fast
This species is native to Madagascar.
It suckers from the base. Left alone, it will make a clump of stems which hides its beauty. Therefore, most people cut or pull off the basal offsets and try to grow them. I agree with this as it shows off the trunk and spectacular crown of leaves.
With This species is used as a specimen plant. You should give it room not only to grow but also for viewing. Leaves can get over twelve feet long, so it needs room to the sides as well as overhead.
PHOTOGRAPHS OF TRAVELER PALMS AND SOME IN THE WILD
PHOTOGRAPHS OF NURSERY PLANTS FOR SALE OVER TIME
At our nursery in Encinitas, CA, we do offer Traveler Palms for sale. Availability varies of time. Sometimes we have larger, sometimes smaller. But, given time, we’ll find something right for your needs. Shown here is an assortment from 5g to 25g sizes. Believe it or not, small ones are the ones that we run out of first.
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