Ravenala madagascariensis – Traveller’s palm

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Ravenala madagascariensis - Traveller’s palm
Ravenala madagascariensis - Traveller’s palm

The Traveller’s tree or palm (Ravenala madagascariensis) is the only species of the monotypic genus Ravenala from the family of Strelitziaceae. Characteristics.

The perennial herbaceous plant reaches stature heights of 7 to 10 meters a nd has a palm-like stem, not lignified. The scientific name Ravenala comes from Malagasy, ravinala meaning “forest leaves”. The leaves are up to 3 meters long and are divided into leaf blade (main part) and long petioles, which in the barge -like leaf base of the dense leaves (lower part of the leaf) come together (stylized in the logo of Air Madagascar).

In the base of the leaf, rain water can be obtained by puncturing the leaf substrate, the tree acts as a water dispenser, a drinking supply for needy travellers in the case of emergency. As drinking water, it is not quite suitable because it is usually contaminated ( rotted leaves, mosquito larvae, dead animals). Another explanation for the name is the fact that the leaves tend to grow in north to south direction and thus could provide some guidance.

The inflorescences are produced in the leaf axils. They protrude from the tuft of leaves and are well adapted to a bird pollination (Ornithophilie). In the axils of the boat- shaped bracts a re numerous flowers with six white to yellowish bloom cladding and six stamens and three carpels are fused into an ovary . The pollinating bird sits down on one of the covers and now has to bend deep forward, to reach the nectar in the flower under him of the same inflorescence. By touching the flower it is opening explosively and showers the breast of the bird with pollen, which he then carries to the next flower. The flowers of Ravenala are also attended by lemurs, they feast on nectar while also pollinating the flowers . The Traveller’s Tree is one of the few plants that is pollinated by mammals.

Distribution

The species is endemic to Madagascar, but now widely used as an ornamental plant in the tropics. He is regarded as the heraldic tree of Madagascar.

Uses

The long-stalked leaves are used for thatching, the veining as building material. The starchy seeds and young leaves are edible. The halved and hollowed-out trunk of Ravenala is used in Madagascar traditionally for thatching.

Culture

The plant or palm requires a sunny spot, but not full sun until it is larger. It does respond well to fertilizer, especially if it is high in nitrogen during the growing season. This produces a better growth and foliage.

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