Selected Trees and Shrubs
Ravenala madagascariensis, Common name: Traveler's Palm, Traveler's Tree
Description: A gorgeous and popular ornamental; with distinctive habit and elegant, banana-like foliage, it is one of nature's most remarkable plants; tree grows up to18 m (60 ft); has solid brown trunk, about 30 cm diameter (12 in); in early stages, young stem is hidden underground; leaves deep green, paddle-shaped like a banana leaf and enormous, up to 3 m long (10 ft) and 25-50 cm wide (12-20 in), borne on giant petioles up to 4.5 m long (15 ft), in a distinctive, fan shaped, semi-circular crown, aligned in single plane; flowers small, creamy-white and inconspicuous, born in axillary inflorescences with large spathes up to 30 cm long (12 in); spathes have classic Bird-of-Paradise flower shape; a mature Traveler's Palm may bloom year round, producing brown fruit with light-blue seed.
Plant Family: Not a true palm, but a single species genus of the three-genus Strelitziaceae or Bird-of-Paradise family, closely related to the Banana (Musaceae) and Heliconia (Heliconiaceae) families; due to shape of leaves, members of this family were once classified in banana family, but now have their own family, members of which have peculiar, but often very beautiful, Bird-of-Paradise type flowers. Apart from the beautiful Bird-of-Paradise Flower (Strelitzia reginae), Strelitziaceae also includes the equally attractive Crane Flower (Strelitzia juncea).
Natural Habitat: Tropical secondary forests on moist, loamy soils in full sun or light shade; propagated by seed or by sucker from plant base.
Origin and Distribution: Endemic to Madagascar, an island off the coast of east Africa in the Indian Ocean.
Uses: Specifically ornamental; widely cultivated in tropical and subtropical regions for its distinctive fan-like habit
and large, dramatic foliage; plant always attracts attention with its unusal and elegant shape and dominant presence.
Indigenous Legends: Called Travelerâ€™s Palm because many parts of the plant, including leaf folds, flower bracts and inside the hollow leaf bases may hold up to one quart of rainwater that can be used in an emergency. Also, legend has it that if a traveler stands in front of a Traveler's Palm and makes a wish, that wish will come true.
Arlington A. James. An Illustrated Guide to Dominicaâ€™s Botanic Gardens. Forestry, Wildlife and Parks Division, Ministry of Agriculture, Dominica 2007
Chuck McLendon. Ravenala madagascariensis. Floridata.com, Tallahassee, Florida [www.floridata.com] January 2005
Anon. [Joseph Jones?]. Official Guide to the Botanic Gardens, Dominica. Kew Gardens, London 1924?
H.F. Macmillan. Tropical Planting and Gardening. Macmillan, London 1956
Robert A. DeFilipps. Useful Plants of the Commonwealth of Dominica, West Indies. Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. 1998
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