Plants
Traveller's tree
-By Rani Iyer

It was one of those hot sunny days, with no shade in sight. I was thirsty and longing for a sip of water, or a chip of ice to wet my parched throat. I tugged at my uncle's hand incessantly; he took it in his stride sportively. "We will soon reach the secretariat," he said. I didn't reply. Undaunted, he continued, "there we will see the biggest traveller's tree. And under the tree you will find cool water."
"Water under a tree?"
"It is a special tree, you know, the traveller's tree!"
"What is so special?"
"Wait and see."
"Does it have hands?"
"You can decide when you see it."
Then he kept quiet. Soon we spotted the swaying fronds of a majestic tree. The fronds looked like banana leaves. I was not sure if he was playing a trick on me, and held my peace.

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I found a tap to quench my thirst and we headed home in silence.
Since then, I have learned some more interesting facts about the traveller's tree. Called Ravenala madagascariensis, it belongs to the banana family (Musaceae). It has a long palm-like trunk, which supports a huge fan-shaped crest of leathery and deep green leaves. These leaves grow up to 4 m long. This tree earns its popular name from the boat-shaped base in which rainwater collects. The water is tasteless and dirty, but can be used in emergency situations. One has to pierce the leaf base to obtain the water.
Although it is endemic to the forests of the east coast of Madagascar, they have been introduced as ornamental plants all over the tropics. In Madagascar, the tree grows in secondary forests and on degraded soils. The tree has tiny, slim, white flowers that have six petals each. They appear on the banana-shaped upper leaves and blossom in groups. Fruits are blue colored capsules.
The traveller's tree has travelled a long way from its place of origin. It is found in many Indian gardens and in a variety of conditions. As an introduced species, it will remain a curiosity plant. To the people of Madagascar, it means degradation of forests, and soil impoverishment. And to this day, a traveller's tree is discovering new homes!



User's Comments                     
Judy Barnes
Could you please tell me if the Travellers Tree should be in full sun or shade. Thank you,Judy
leah
Yes it needs full sun
mika
Your article is very helpful! Keep up the good work! Thanks!
sneha
It was a very boring article.
sanjna
Wow nice information. Needed for school. Hope you write more articles on it.
sanjna
Wow nice information. Needed for school. Hope you write more articles on it.
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