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Publication #ENH-723

Ravenala madagascariensis: Travelers-Tree1

Edward F. Gilman, Dennis G. Watson, Ryan W. Klein, Andrew K. Koeser, Deborah R. Hilbert, and Drew C. McLean2

Introduction

Travelers-tree is ideal for creating an exotic, tropical effect with its very large, banana-like leaves, each up to ten feet long and held in fan-shaped formation, and the unusual, small, creamy white flowers which are held erect in boat-shaped bracts. Leaves are usually seen tattered and torn from exposure to the wind. Travelers-tree will reach a height of 30 feet and a spread of 18 feet, growing at a moderate rate. It makes a nice tropical accent in a large landscape, growing too large for most modest-sized yards. The common name is derived from the fact that weary travelers would quench their thirst on the rainwater collected in the enlarged sheaths at the base of the leaves.

Figure 1. 

Full Form—Ravenala madagascariensis: travelers-tree


Credit:

Ed Gilman, UF/IFAS


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

General Information

Scientific name: Ravenala madagascariensis

Pronunciation: rav-eh-NAY-luh mad-uh-gas-kar-ee-EN-sis

Common name(s): travelers-tree

Family: Strelitziaceae

USDA hardiness zones: 10A through 11 (Figure 2)

Origin: native to Madagascar

UF/IFAS Invasive Assessment Status: not assessed/incomplete assessment

Uses: deck or patio; specimen; container or planter

Figure 2. 

Range


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Description

Height: 15 to 30 feet

Spread: 15 to 18 feet

Crown uniformity: irregular

Crown shape: palm, upright/erect

Crown density: open

Growth rate: moderate

Texture: coarse

Foliage

Leaf arrangement: alternate

Leaf type: simple

Leaf margin: entire

Leaf shape: oblong

Leaf venation: pinnate

Leaf type and persistence: evergreen, broadleaf evergreen

Leaf blade length: 6 to 10 feet

Leaf color: medium to dark green

Fall color: no color change

Fall characteristic: not showy

Figure 3. 

Leaf—Ravenala madagascariensis: travelers-tree


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Figure 4. 

Leaf Base—Ravenala madagascariensis: travelers-tree


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Flower

Flower color: creamy white

Flower characteristics: showy; emerges in clusters on 1'–2' long stalks constructed of overlapping, boat-shaped, green bracts

Flowering: year-round

Figure 5. 

Flower—Ravenala madagascariensis: travelers-tree


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Fruit

Fruit shape: unknown

Fruit length: 3 inches

Fruit covering: dry or hard; woody capsule

Fruit color: brown

Fruit characteristics: does not attract wildlife; not showy; fruit/leaves not a litter problem; seeds are brown and are covered in a bright blue, fiber-like aril

Fruiting: year-round

Trunk and Branches

Trunk/branches: branches don't droop; showy; typically multi-trunked; no thorns

Bark: brown to gray, with remnant leaf bases that wear away to horizontal lines or leaf base scars with age

Pruning requirement: needed for strong structure

Breakage: resistant

Current year twig color: not applicable

Current year twig thickness:

Wood specific gravity: unknown

Figure 6. 

Bark—Ravenala madagascariensis: travelers-tree


Credit:

Gitta Hasing


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Culture

Light requirement: full sun to partial shade

Soil tolerances: clay; sand; loam; acidic; slightly alkaline; well-drained

Drought tolerance: moderate

Aerosol salt tolerance: none

Other

Roots: not a problem

Winter interest: no

Outstanding tree: no

Ozone sensitivity: unknown

Verticillium wilt susceptibility: unknown

Pest resistance: sensitive to pests/diseases

Use and Management

Travelers-tree will produce best growth in full sun, though small potted plants may be grown in shade for a period of time. Plants should be grown on fertile soils, high in organic matter, and routinely cared for. Plants should be grown only in frost-free locations.

Propagation is by division of basal suckers or by seed, which are slow to germinate.

Pests

No pests are of major concern.

Diseases

Cercospora leaf-spot is a very serious disease problem.

Reference

Koeser, A.K., Friedman, M.H., Hasing, G., Finley, H., Schelb, J. 2017. Trees: South Florida and the Keys. Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

Footnotes

1.

This document is ENH-723, one of a series of the Environmental Horticulture Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date November 1993. Revised December 2018. Visit the EDIS website at https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu for the currently supported version of this publication.

2.

Edward F. Gilman, professor emeritus, Environmental Horticulture Department; Dennis G. Watson, former associate professor, Agricultural Engineering Department; Ryan W. Klein, graduate assistant, Environmental Horticulture Department; Andrew K. Koeser, assistant professor, Environmental Horticulture Department, UF/IFAS Gulf Coast Research and Education Center; Deborah R. Hilbert, graduate assistant, Environmental Horticulture Department, GCREC; and Drew C. McLean, biological scientist, Environmental Horticulture Department, GCREC; UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.


The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.