Ravenala madagascariensis


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).

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.

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.

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