Ethnobotanical & Economic Value of Madagascar’s “Traveler’s Tree”

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Ethnobotanical and economic value of Ravenala madagascariensis Sonn. in Eastern Madagascar

Rakotoarivelo N, Razanatsima A, Rakotoarivony F, Rasoaviety L, Ramarosandratana AV, Jeannoda V, Kuhlman AR, Randrianasolo A, Bussmann RW
J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2014 Jul 15;10:57
PubMed Central PMC4106185

Ravenala madagascariensis
Ravenala madagascariensis [Source: © CEphoto, Uwe Aranas / , via Wikimedia Commons]
Investigators from the Missouri Botanical Garden and the University of Antananarivo report on the different uses of Ravenala madagascariensis and its importance to the people of the Ambalabe Rural Commune in eastern Madagascar.

From the paper’s Background:

“In the eastern part of Madagascar, Ravenala madagascariensis, an endemic species also known as the traveler’s palm or traveler’s tree, is considered as an iconic symbol of the island. While Ravenala madagascariensis occurs in both primary rainforest and open secondary growth, it is known to form a very characteristic vegetation called “Ravenala forest”, due to the high abundance of the species.”

The team documented a wide range of uses for the plant, with house building especially important, but notes that strategies for long-term management are needed to sustain the mature trees that are needed for construction:

Ravenala madagascariensis remains an important component in the life of local population in the Ambalabe Rural Commune, especially for house building. There are four varieties of Ravenala madagascariensis found in the study area and all of them are used. Ravenala is used primarily for construction, but other uses have also been noticed including food, medicine and tools. Using Ravenala for house building reduces the pressure on some forest trees, which contributes to the conservation of natural forests and slow growing hardwoods. However, mature trees are needed to source construction materials, and these have become increasingly scarce. While the local population has developed some practices to increase the numbers of large trees, strategies for long term management and sustainable harvests need to be developed.”

Read the complete article at PubMed Central.

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