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What’s Blooming in Paradise: Traveler’s Tree has creamy ivory blooms

By Staff | Oct 22, 2015

Plant Subject: Traveler’s Tree (Ravenala madagascariensis)

First impression: Exotic egret head in profile shaped flower of creamy ivory, vibrant blues, and a sprinkle of magenta. The blossom is extra large measuring 15 inches long. Its long stemmed dark green leaves resemble the shape of a banana plant. All plant growth starts at the base, the flowers emerge in a stacked pattern in between the leaves and continues five and six high.

I am in awe of this double story tall, tropical, unique plant. What a show stopper, any ornithologist would take a second look! You can see this nonwinged wonder in bloom at the Botanical Gardens of the Sanibel Moorings.

Upon further investigation: Traveler’s Tree is an evergreen tree like herb that hails from Madagascar. It is in the Bird of Paradise (Strelitziaceae) family so it’s grown for its lush foliage and beautiful tropical flowers. This impressive plant is a must for our gardens, with flowers blooming throughout the year. The calyx (feather like flower) is shimmery creamy greenish white, which sits in a gynormous vivid green canoe shaped bract (spathe) at the base of a whorl of leaves. The edge of this spathe is frosted in a crimson burgundy. Wow!

The spiked flowers appear to be peeking through the foliage. After a closer look, you realize they are stacked in an alternating fashion that seems to never end. The leaves are long, tall and paddle shaped arranged in a fan like manner. These arrangements of leaves are connected at the base forming a large clump, which eventually maturity will turn into a palm like trunk. New babies appear as tiny clumps on the outside of the mother plant from suckers, (I prefer to keep my Traveler’s Trees solitary for lots of drama).

After blooming remember to clean out the old blossoms, which will start to smell if left unattended. Maximum height for this fast grower is a whopping 30 feet tall and 15 feet wide, so plan for appropriate site. You may plant in full sun or filtered shade, and well drained soil. Avoid planting in a windy area; its leaves will split when under lots of breeze. It is a noninvasive exotic with little, or no pests, or diseases.

The most common dilemma I hear about our star is confusion between Traveler’s Trees and White Bird of Paradise. Here are some cues for success: Travelers Tree has a fan pattern to its leaves and White Bird leaves have a whorl pattern. Travelers Tree flowers have creamy flowers with larger bases and White Birds have larger white flowers with smaller bases. Still a great habitat plant because birds drink from the flower bases. They are enjoying the collected water and the flowers nectar. Bird ala bird!

Pros:

Great tall dramatic shrub

Likes full sun

Noninvasive

May have bird watcher in your garden

Salt tolerance

Will fill in unsightly areas with little effort

Birds love it!

Cons:

Needs to be trimmed of pups and spent blooms

Don’t let neighbors steal flowers

Nonnative.

Conclusion: Bring out those binoculars-there are birds blooming in the bushes. No need to worry, they won’t fly away in our tropical eye catching garden.

Don’t wanna miss this bloomer!