Medium-sized evergreen tree, up to 20–30m tall; trunk solitary or branched at base, cylindrical, woody, ring-scarred, olive green and smooth or grey.
Its long leaf stalks and deep green leaves resemble those of the banana and extend out symmetrically from the trunk like a giant Chinese fan. Young plants are trunk less, but the trunk grows eventually as the plant matures.
It produces small white flowers, in a foot long inflorescence, which are held in bracts. In these bracts and leaf folds, rainwater is collected. It is this rainwater collecting property of this tree, which can be consumed by thirsty travellers, what gives it the name traveller’s palm.