BACKGROUND Known worldwide as the "traveler's tree", the Malagasy endemic species Ravenala madagascariensis Sonn. (Strelitziaceae) is considered as an iconic symbol of Madagascar. It is a widespread species in the eastern part of the country with four different varieties which are well represented in Ambalabe community. All of them are used for different purposes and the species represents an important cultural value in the lives of the local population. However, uses of Ravenala are only generally well known by local population. Thus, in this study, we report on the different uses of Ravenala and its importance to the Ambalabe local people. METHODS Semi-structured interviews among 116 people, 59 men and 57 women with ages ranging from 17 to 84 years old, free listing and market surveys were conducted in order to collect the vernacular names, the uses of Ravenala madagascariensis and the price of plant parts sold in local market. Then, the uses were categorized according to Cámara-Leret et al. classification. RESULTS Different parts of the plant are currently used by local population, which are grouped as heart, trunk, leaves, petioles and rachis. Seven categories of use were recorded, most cited include: human food, utensils and tools, and house building. The most commonly used parts are trunk, heart, leaves and petioles for which the price varies between $3-15. Uses mentioned for construction (floor, roofs and wall), human food and utensils and tools are the most frequent and salient for local population. But the use of the plant as first materials for house building is revealed to be the most important for them. CONCLUSIONS Ravenala madagascariensis is very important to the Ambalabe communities because for local population, it represents the Betsimisaraka cultural and traditional use of the plant for house building. Moreover, none of its parts are discarded. The harvest and sale of R. madagascariensis for building materials can also provide an additional source of income to the family. Besides, using Ravenala in house construction reduces the use of slow growing trees and contributes to the sustainable use of natural forest resources.