The set of definitives shown here was issued in 1903 by Madagascar, a French colony from 1897 to 1958. The stamps’ artwork features a Zebu (a cattle breed) a small tree and a Lemur. The tree is the ornamental ‘traveller’s tree’, Ravenala madagascariensis, the only Ravenala species of the genus Strelitziaceae. This plant is native to Madagascar and has a palm-like trunk and leaves that give the appearance of a fan. Water stored in the leaf bases enables the plant to withstand dry conditions. The traveller’s tree is so named as the native people discovered the water could be used for drinking in emergencies and the fan of leaves tends to grow on an approximate east-west line, thus providing a very basic compass for travellers.
These overprinted Madagasca stamps from 1944 also feature Ravenala madagascariensis.
And the 60c value in this attractive 1968 Rwanda issue features the flower of the traveller’s tree.
The traveller’s tree was also the subject of a stamp released by Ascension Island in 2002.