The Traveller’s palm is the only species in the genus although different forms are described.
Young plants have closely spaced leaves, on long stalks, in 2 ranks.
The overlapping petiole bases sheath the stem.
As the plant grows the lower leaves fall off leaving a vertical trunk that can grow to over 12 m high.
At the top is a flat, semi-circular, fan-shaped crown of leaves.
Plants can sucker and form clumps.
There can be over 30 thick, dark green leaves in the crown.
The petiole can be nearly half the length of the leaf.
The blades can be 3 m or more long and 1 m wide.
There are multiple, closely spaced pinnate veins (penniveined).
The blades commonly tear along the veins.
The axillary inflorescences, 30 to 60 cm long, are on a short or no stalk.
Each can have around 10 (5 – 15) pale green, spathe-like bracts to 17 cm long.
Each bract can hold 10 to 16 white flowers.
The roughly vertical, flowers are up to 15 or 20 cm long.
They are structurally similar to those of Strelitzia reginae.
There are 3 similar, free sepals.
Two inner (fused) petals are similar to the sepals and the third is shorter.
There are 6 stamens and an inferior ovary of 3 carpels.
The fruit are 10 cm long loculicidal capsules with many seeds in the 3 chambers.
The seeds have bright blue arils (fleshy thickenings of the seed coat).
A similar appearing plant to the Traveller’s palm Ravenala madagascariensis.
It is much less common in cultivation here compared to Ravenala.
A clumping plant that grows to 14 m high.
Leaves, in 2 ranks, are in a fan at the top of the stem.
They have a long petiole and an elliptic blade.
The petioles have a short basal sheath.
Terminal inflorescences on long stalks can be over 3 m long – much longer than the leaves.
The 8 or so green spathe-like bracts on each inflorescence are up to 45 cm long.
Flowers are cream to white and nearly 30 cm long.
They open just before sunset and are only receptive for 1 night.
Flowers have 5 stamens (Ravenala have 6).
They can flower for up to 4 months.
Fruit are loculicidal capsules.
The black seeds have an orange-red aril (Ravenala has blue).
The axillary inflorescences of Ravenala, on short or no stalks, are much shorter than the leaves.
The terminal inflorescences of Phenakospermum, on a long stalk, are much longer than the leaves.
Phenakospermum flowers have 5 stamens.