Giant White Bird of Paradise vs. Traveler’s Palm

Plant Stuff
Strelitzia nicolai in the interior on the background of a white brick wall.

Ah, the eternal mix-up in the plant world! The Giant White Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia nicolai) and the Traveler’s Palm (Ravenala madagascariensis) often get mistaken for each other, and it’s easy to see why at a glance. Both sport those large, lush, and absolutely striking leaves that can turn any space into a tropical paradise. But let’s dive into the nitty-gritty, shall we? I promise it’s as fascinating as finding an unexpected bloom in your backyard!

Origins and Names

First off, the Giant White Bird of Paradise hails from South Africa and is part of the Strelitzia family. It gets its name from the spectacular white flowers that resemble a bird in flight. Imagine a crane, elegantly taking off, and you’ve got the picture.

White Bird of Paradise Flower
White Bird of Paradise

On the other hand, the Traveler’s Palm is not a palm at all! Originating from Madagascar, it’s actually closer to the bird of paradise family than to any palm. The name comes from a rather romantic notion that the plant’s leaves can collect water that travelers could drink. Picture a weary traveler in Madagascar, finding solace under a Traveler’s Palm, and you’re right there in the scene.

Travellers Palm


While both plants boast impressive height and fan-like leaves, there are differences. The Giant White Bird of Paradise can grow up to 30 feet tall and its leaves can reach 8 feet in length. Its flowers, hidden among the leaves, are white with a purplish-blue “tongue.”

The Traveler’s Palm, however, can grow even taller, reaching up to 50 feet in some cases. Its leaves, arranged in a distinctive fan shape, can span up to 10 feet. It’s a sight to behold, truly. Unlike the bird of paradise, its flowers are not the main attraction, and the plant does not flower as prolifically in non-tropical climates.

Care and Growing Conditions

Both plants love the sun but have slightly different preferences when it comes to their growing conditions. The Giant White Bird of Paradise prefers a sunny spot with some partial shade and well-draining soil. It’s somewhat drought-tolerant once established and can handle a bit of neglect.

The Traveler’s Palm, craving more moisture, prefers a spot that’s sunny to partly shady with ample water, especially in hot temperatures. It’s a bit more demanding in its thirst but just as stunning in its growth.

Travellers Palm

Indoor vs. Outdoor

Indoors, the Giant White Bird of Paradise makes a more manageable houseplant due to its slightly slower growth and ability to tolerate indoor conditions well. It can bring a touch of the tropics to any room, provided you have the space for its expansive leaves.

White Giant Bird of Paradise

The Traveler’s Palm, with its grand size, is generally more suited for outdoor landscapes in warm climates or large indoor spaces where it can truly spread its leaves.

So, Which One to Choose?

Choosing between these two depends on the space you have available, your climate, and how much of a statement you want to make. Both can transform a space into a tropical getaway, but the Giant White Bird of Paradise might be more practical for indoor use, while the Traveler’s Palm demands outdoor space to flourish.

White Giant Bird of Paradise

In my garden, I’ve given in to the grandeur of the Traveler’s Palm, letting it dominate the landscape with its architectural leaves. It’s like having a piece of Madagascar right outside my window. But for those indoor corners, the Giant White Bird of Paradise brings a more manageable slice of the tropics into my home.

Whether you lean towards the elegance of the Giant White Bird of Paradise or the dramatic flair of the Traveler’s Palm, you’re sure to bring a touch of exotic beauty into your life. Now, isn’t that what gardening’s all about?

Travellers Palm
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