Ravenala is the first part of the scientific name of the travellers' palm : Ravenala madagascariensis. It forms the monotypic genus Ravenala.
Ravenala The travellers' palm is one of the most known endemic plants of Madagascar and is grown all over the world in the tropical zones. The mature tree consists of a trunk with a sheaf of very large leaves, placed in two rows forming a flat fan. The plant can reach 30 meter and the trunk is formed only after a few years. The leaves are elongated. They are 1 to 4 meters long with a long stalk. The leaf has a central vein with nearly straight spreading side veins, along which the leaf is torn, what gives it a plumy appearance.
The inflorescences are located between the leafstalks and can be up to 85 cm long. They consist of five to fifteen large, boat shaped bracts, which contain each up to sixteen cream coloured flowers. The flowers are about 20 cm long and have six petals, two of them being fasciated to a sheath, where the six stamens are located. On Madagascar the flowers are pollinated by lemurs, which feed on the nectar of the flowers.
The English name of the plant originates in the legend that says that the plant always forms a source of fresh water. The way the leaves grow leave a small reservoir at the base, in which thirsty travellers can always find refreshment, even after a long period of drought. It is true that there is always water in the axils of the leafstalks, but this water is plenty of dead leaves and mosquito larva.