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The traveler's palm is one of nature's most distinctive
and remarkable plants. The traveler's palm (not a true
palm) has been described as being part banana plant
and part palm tree. Its long petioles (leaf stems)
and deep green leaves resemble those of the banana
and extend out from the trunk like the slats of a giant
hand fan. The leaves range up to 10 ft (3 m) long and
from 12-20in (25-51 cm) in width. Young traveler's
palms have a subterranean trunk which, in the adult
plant, emerges above ground elevating the symmetrical
crown to heights ranging from 30-60 ft (9-18 m). The
green palmlike trunk grows up to 1 ft (0.3 m) in diameter
and displays distinctive trunk leaf scar rings. Multitudes
of small creamy white flowers compose an inflorescence
up to 12in (30.5 cm) long. A mature traveler's palm
may bloom year round and produce brown fruits that
contain light blue seeds.
Ravenala madagascariensis, the traveler's palm is endemic
to (occurs nowhere but...) secondary forests on the
island of Madagascar which is off the coast of east
Africa in the Indian Ocean.
The traveler's palm tolerates sandy and clayey soils
with good drainage, and thrives in rich, moist and
loamy soils. It responds well to fertilizer and is
considered a heavy feeder. A slow release fertilizer
(e.g., an 18-18-18) may be used during the summer
growing season. This vigorous plant is considered
very disease and pest resistant.
Light: The traveler's
palm thrives and grows best in full sun but
also grows well in part sun/shade. Small plants
should be shaded until well established. The
traveler's palm requires a lot of light, especially
when grown indoors.
Moisture: Soils should be moist and have good drainage
to yield optimal growth.
Hardiness: USDA Zones
10 - 11. Mature traveler's palms are considered
cold hardy in frost-free locations. There are
reports of enthusiasts successfully growing
traveler's palms in USDA Zone 9, where they
would need to be protected from the occasional
traveler's palm may be propagated by seeds
or by division and replanting of the attractive
clumps (or suckers) formed at the base of the
The traveler's palm is considered to be one of nature's
most spectacular trees and is a superb accent plant.
Plant the traveler's palm outdoors in a tropical
landscape that is free from frosts with overhead
room to accommodate the large crown of foliage. Shelter
the traveler's palm from strong winds, otherwise
the leaves become tattered. Traveler's palm can also
be grown indoors and in greenhouses where lighting
is plentiful and where the container in which it
is growing restricts plant size.
The traveler's palm has very deep roots in folklore
and tradition. Have you ever wanted to have your
very own wishing well? The traveler's palm may be
just the plant for you! It is said, "If a traveler
stands directly in front of a traveler's palm and
makes a wish in good spirit - that wish will definitely
The traveler's palm gets its name from the fact that
thirsty travelers could find stores of water in many
parts of the plant including the leaf folds, flower
bracts and inside each of the hollow leaf bases each
of which may hold up to one quart of water! Although
not a true palm, the traveler's palm is considered
one of the most striking and unique trees in nature.
It is perfect for that special accent in your tropical
landscape. The traveler's palm is unique in nature
and is monotypic, meaning it is the only species in
its genus. The species name, madagascariensis, denotes
its origin in Madagascar.
Be forewarned, that although the traveler's palm has
no thorns, it is sure to snag most everyone's attention.
It is the the main attraction and focus of any tropical
landscape in which it appears!