Traveler’s palm is a tropical tree, which is native to Madagascar. It has many names, traveller’s palm or traveller’s tree, with one and two L-s. Sometimes it is also called East-West palm. However, it is not a true palm, it is more related to the banana tree than a palm. There are five different known species of traveler’s tree.
It is called the traveler’s palm because it holds rainwater in the sheaths of its stems, which can be used as an emergency drinking supply for thirsty travelers. Traveler’s palm has huge paddle-shaped leaves connected to long petioles. What makes this tree really fascinating and cool-looking is the formation of the foliage, its leaves are shaped like a fan in a single plane.
It produces white flowers similar to one of its relatives – bird-of-paradise flowers. After pollination, these flowers produce blue seeds, which are a sight to behold on their own. Older plants display a grey trunk. Ruffed lemurs are known pollinators of traveler’s trees!
In this article, we will tell you about 5 different types of traveler’s trees, where you can grow them, and how to grow and care for them.
Types of Traveler’s Palm
Many think that traveler’s tree is one species of tree – Ravenala madagascariensis. People from Madagascar have 6 different names for traveler’s trees, interestingly enough there are 6 different species! One of the species, Ravenala agatheae is very rare, so we haven’t included that in our list.
Ravenala madagascariensis, Horonorona is the most common species, which is cultivated all around the world. It can grow 20-40 feet (6 – 12 meters) tall. It can form shoots via its roots and reproduce that way, which makes it easy to propagate. It grows naturally in wet conditions, in small valleys above rivers on in swampy areas on the coast of Madagascar.
Ravenala blancii, Malama can grow up to 30 to 50 feet (10 – 15 meters) tall. It is most noticeable in its young age when its foliage looks like a bird’s nest fern. Naturally, it grows in dense rainforests.
Ravenala menahirana is a fast-growing variety, it has zigzag lines on its large leaves. Its stalks are slightly red-colored.
Ravenala grandis, Bemavo is the largest variety, which can grow up to 90 feet (30 meters) tall! When fully grown, its leaves are perfectly fanned out, which makes them really attractive.
Ravenala hladikorum, Tokam-pototra can grow up to 30 to 50 feet tall, similar to Malama. Its leaves will still be in an irregular fan shape, even as an adult plant.
Small traveler’s trees can also be grown in containers. They demand a lot of sunlight and thrive in moist soils, generally, they are considered easy to care for. It is quite cold-hardy and grows at a medium rate.
Traveler’s palm grows best in USDA Hardiness Zones 9a to 11. Which means they can tolerate temperatures as low as 20 degrees Fahrenheit (-6.6 degrees Celsius).
It enjoys high humidity. When grown indoors it might be a good idea to raise the humidity level if it is below 50 %. Place it next to a humidifier or put a plate beside it, and fill it with rocks and water to raise humidity.
The key to keeping this plant alive is the watering routine.
This plant is quite demanding when it comes to water, especially young plants. They require may require watering daily, and the soil should be kept evenly moist at all times, but not too soggy. Soggy soil will cause brown spots and leaf drop.
The best time for watering would be early in the morning or late in the evening when temperatures are lower. Curly or dry leaves are an indication that the traveler’s tree needs water.
Traveler’s palm thrives in full sun but can tolerate partial shade. Unless you live in very hot climates, where temperatures can rise over 110 degrees Fahrenheit (43.3 degrees Celsius), you do not have to worry about providing shade.
When grown indoors, it might need an artificial plant light to thrive. A traveler’s tree needs a lot of light to grow well.
Soil & Fertilizer
Traveler’s tree is known to be able to grow in most types of soil, sandy or clay type of soil, provided it is moist at all times, not dry or soggy. To ensure growth, grow it in nutrient-rich soil or feed palm fertilizer two times during the growing season. When growing Traveler’s tree in USDA Hardiness Zone 9, you can provide mulch at the base of the plant to protect the roots against unusually cold periods.
Traveler’s tree can be propagated by seeds or dividing clumps. However, propagating by seeds is more popular, here’s how to start a new traveler’s tree via seeds:
- Soak the seeds in warm water for 3 days
- Change water daily
- Remove any loose skin in water
- Place the seeds in moist peat moss
- Keep the temperatures between 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit(21 to 27 degrees Celsius)
- Germination should occur in 2 months or less
Plant younger plants at least 10 feet away from any house or structure, to give them adequate space to grow. When growing them in a row, space them 10 feet away from each other as well.
Traveler’s palm is one of the most recognizable trees in the world. It is eye-catching and doesn’t demand a lot of care. It does demand a lot of water when grown in arid environments. Follow our guide and allow your Traveler’s tree to thrive!