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Ravenala madagascariensis Sonn.

Family Name: Strelitziaceae
Common Name: Traveller's Palm, Traveller's Tree, Pokok Travelers, Pisang Kipas, 旅人蕉, 扇芭蕉
Full Sun Semi Shade Moderate Water Bird-Attracting Plant Indoor Plant Suitable for Roadsides Ornamental Flowers Ornamental Leaves Herbaceous Plant


Family Name
Genus Epithet
Species Epithet
Name Authority
Name Status (botanical)
Common Names

Classifications and Characteristics

Plant Division Angiosperms (Flowering Seed Plants) (Monocotyledon)
Plant Growth Form Herbaceous Plant
Lifespan (in Singapore) Perennial
Mode of Nutrition Autotrophic
Maximum Height 9 m to 18 m
Maximum Plant Spread / Crown Width 4.5 m to 5.5 m
Tree or Palm – Trunk Diameter 0


Native Distribution Madagascar
Native Habitat Terrestrial (Secondary Rainforest, Grassland / Savannah/ Scrubland)
Preferred Climate Zone Sub-Tropical / Monsoonal

Description and Ethnobotany

Others - Plant Morphology Herbaceous shrub from Strelitziaceae (Bird of Paradise) family with palm-like appearance. Not a true palm, but more closely related to bananas. Reaches up to 30m height in the wild, but typically shorter in cultivation. Crown symmetrical, fan-shaped. Trunk woody-like with characteristic leaf-scar rings, hidden underground in juvenile plants, and emergent in mature plants.Leaves paddle-shaped, banana-like, large (up to 4m long and 0.5m wide), with 2-4m long petioles that terminate in large hollow basal sheaths. Flowers small with off-white boat-like bracts, produced in inconspicuous inflorescences up to 30cm long amongst leaf petioles, reported to be pollinated by Varecia variegata (Ruffled Lemurs) in native habitat. Blooming seldom observed in Singapore and tropical lowlands due to ever wet conditions. Fruits brown, woody, 3-lobed capsules. Seeds numerous, black, thinly covered with glossy blue and hairy aril, eaten by birds.Cultivated in landscapes for its tropical-looking and architectural crown. Can be grown in containers to constrain size. Prefers moist, well-drained, rich loamy soils, and regular nitrogen-rich fertilizers for lusher foliage growth. Avoid planting in areas with strong winds, which may result in torn tattered leaves. Leaf sheaths and flower bracts may collect stagnant water and are potential mosquito breeding grounds. If neat formal appearance is desired, remove basal suckers regularly to maintain clear-trunked specimens, and prune away older leaves.Usually propagated by division of suckers from base of parent plant. Untreated seeds slow to germinate. Plant growth initially slow, trunks may take up to 3 years to emerge from underground, but growth rate accelerates thereafter.Monotypic genus (ie. only 1 species within genus). Genus epithet 'Ravenala' derived from native Malagasy name, Ravinala, meaning "leaves of the forest".
Ethnobotanical Uses [Others]: Common name 'Traveller's Palm' derived from anecdotes that thirsty travellers can obtain up to 1.5 litres of drinking water collected within leaf sheaths. Plant also referred to as a compass for travellers, as it is thought that it always orientates itself along north-south axis, although this is not always true. A possible reason for such a directional orientation is the plant's attempt to face its crown of leaves into the east-west path of the sun, in order to maximize the amount of light captured. Used as emblem of Raffles Hotel, Singapore.

Landscaping Features

Desirable Plant Features Ornamental Flowers, Ornamental Foliage, Ornamental Seeds
Plant & Rootzone Preference - Tolerance Fertile Loamy Soils, Well-Drained Soils
Landscape Uses Container Planting, Roadside Tree / Palm, Interiorscape/ Indoor Plant, General, Focal Plant
Plant & Rootzone Preference or Tolerance Remarks Sandy soil, Clayey soil
Species record last updated on: 23 February 2022.