Malagasy travellers' tree
Ravenala madagascariensis

One of nature's most distinctive and remarkable plants, with rare blue seeds, Ravenala madagascariensis, from the island of Madagascar, has been described as being part banana tree and part palm tree. The flowers of the Malagasy travellers’ tree are pollinated by lemurs.

Its long stems and huge leaves fan out from the trunk, growing up to 18 m high. It has an abundance of small white flowers, which on a mature tree may bloom year-round, and are pollinated by lemurs. But it is the brown fruits that hold the biggest surprise – startling blue seeds.

The Malagasy travellers’ tree is a close relative of the bird-of-paradise (Strelitzia reginae) from South Africa and the palulu (Phenakospermum guianense) from South America. All three belong to the Strelitziaceae family and all produce seeds with edible ‘appendages’ to attract animals for their dispersal.

However, the seeds of Ravenala are wrapped in an intensely blue, soft, wax-paper like appendage, and the others are red. The red and black colour scheme is very common in bird-dispersed fruits and seeds, whereas blue is extremely rare indeed, probably linked to attracting the islands endemic lemurs. Why not adopt its seed as a unique gift for someone special?

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