This month we’d like to introduce you to one of the most interesting and visually arresting trees in the world – Banana Palm or Traveller’s Palm – Ravenala madagascariensis

Palm Centre – Plant of the Month – December 2007

Banana Palm or Traveller’s Palm – Ravenala madagascariensis

This month we’d like to introduce you to one of the most interesting and visually arresting trees in the world.  Once you have seen it, even from several hundred metres away, you will recognise it, and it is possible to grow it in sheltered gardens in this country.  Especially on the Mediterranean coast with protection from frost.

The Banana Palm is one of the most beautiful of tropical trees.  It is a member of the Strelitziaceae family (best known for the Bird of Paradise plant) and, despite its name, it is neither a banana or a palm.

Ravenala comes from the island of Madagascar which is the only place in the world where it can be found growing wild.

It has a soft trunk when young that gradually thickens until it reaches up to 30cm diameter.  The Banana Palm can reach a height of 18 metres.  Leaves are produced symmetrically in pairs on either side of the trunk, they look like banana leaves and are 25 – 50cm wide, sometimes as long as 3m.  It is these leaves which resemble those of the banana, but from a distance also look like the leaves of a fan palm,  that give the tree its common name Banana Palm.

In English it is also known as the Traveller’s Palm because early travellers in the forests of Madagascar, when in need of water, found a supply nestled in the wide leaves of this plant.

It produces many clumps of small cream flowers on a single stem, so that they look like single flower.  In its tropical homeland the tree will flower all year round. It has brown fruits that contain bright blue seeds.

{mosimage}As this is a native of the tropics it will only withstand short periods of very light frost and has to be protected from winds – or, as with bananas, its leaves will split.  It is not too fussy about soil and will thrive in any light, well-draining soil.  Whilst it doesn’t want its roots in water it does grow better when its roots are always in moist soil.  It prefers full sun but will survive in partial shade.

It was first grown at the Palm Centre in 1995 and by the end of that decade we had produced sufficient plants to start selling them.  We planted some in an atrium at a hotel in Marmaris and they had grown to the height of the second floor when the owner decided to move them and they died.  We hadn’t propagated any for some years but started again in 2004 and oncemore we now have these plants for sale.

In this country, on the south coast in sheltered gardens and with protection from winter frosts, it is possible to grow this tree.

The Palm Centre is open 1st June – 31st October but you can visit at any other time by appointment. 


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