The Traveler’s Tree is a spectacular tropical tree native to Madagascar that has large, banana-like leaves which are arranged in a flat plane like a fan. It will grow up to 30-50' tall. It grows in moist forests in the wild. It has now been planted in subtropical and tropical areas around the world, including central and southern Florida, southern Texas, southern California and Hawaii. This plant features an unbranched trunk (to 12" diameter) which is topped by a fan-shaped single plane of enormous, long-stalked, banana-like, deep green leaves (20-30 per trunk). Each leaf blade is 5-10' long by 2-3' wide and appears at the end of a thick, grooved leaf stalk (petiole) which is as long or longer than the leaf blade. Leaf margins are sometimes split as is the case with some bananas. Up to one quart of rain water will accumulate in the expanded and cupped base of each leaf stalk, thus giving rise to the common names for this plant which suggests an emergency drinking water source for travelers in need. Showy 3-petaled white flowers in cymes rise from boat-shaped spathes in a manner reminiscent of this plant's bird-of-paradise (Strelitzia) relative. Flowers bloom in summer plus sporadically throughout the rest of the year. Flowers are followed by woody capsules (to 3 1/2" long) containing edible seeds covered by bright blue arils. In early years, the trunk of this plant is subterranean (not visible), with the fan of leaves sitting on the ground. Eventually the trunk does appear and lengthen, with somewhat attractive leaf scar rings forming on the trunk surface as the lower leaves drop. Hardy in zones 10-11.
Growing Instructions for the Traveler’s Tree
- Remove the blue fringes from the seeds. 2. The seeds have a hard seed coat that has to be treated, or scarified, in order for water to enter the seeds so that they can sprout. To scarify the seeds, nick or sand the seed coat with sandpaper. The seeds can be sanded with sandpaper, a nail file or an emery board. 3. Soak the seed in water for 24 hours. 4. The seeds like moist, well-drained soil. Prepare a mixture of half potting soil and half sand, perlite or vermiculite. Put the soil in a pot. Water the mixture so that it is moist but not wet. 5. Sow the seeds ½-1 inch deep. 6. Water the seeds. 7. Place the pots in an area with warm temperatures in full sun or part shade. The seeds are slow to germinate and can take 1-2 months to start to grow. 8. When the seedlings are a few inches tall, they can be transplanted.