Dragon Tree Dracaena draco

Dragon Trees on the socotra archipelago in Yemen

The name of this beautiful tree has mythical origins: for his 11th labor, Hercules had to bring back three golden apples from the garden of the Hespérides, which is guarded by Landon, the hundred-headed dragon. Hercules killed Landon and his blood flowed out over the land, which began to sprout ‘dragon’ trees. The tree exudes dragon’s blood, a red sap when cut.

The dragon tree is extremely slow-growing, taking 8 to 11 years to reach just 2 to 3 feet, when it begins to flower. Flowering occurs almost simultaneously on the Canary Islands, taking place only every 15 years. The flowering causes the stem to branch, resulting in a highly branched tree which can be aged according to the number of branches.

The dragon tree lives in dry region. A few hundred trees are found on five of the seven Canary Islands, in addition to two on Madeira Island, Portugal and populations in Cape Verde, Morocco and about 50 to 80 trees on the Azorean Islands. On Madeira and in the Azores, the plant grows in steep coastal cliffs usually below 200m altitude, while in the Canaries, it grows in inaccessible cliffs from 100 to 600m altitude, and in Morocco and Cabo Verde, it grows high in the mountains.

A: Dispersal and colonization from the African mainland make the Macaronesian Islands a refuge for several species of Dracaena; B: African Grand Rift leads to the disruption and vicariance of Dracaena in the Red Sea region;

This species has undergone an extreme decline because of complex problems. Its seeds used to germinate when eaten by a flightless bird and passed through the bird’s gut, but following the extinction of this bird, the seeds can nolonger germinate without human manipulation. However, there are some young trees in the Azores and in Morocco, despite the absence human seed preparation. Also, the introduced rats feed on the seeds and the exotic goats and rabbits graze on seedlings and young plants, preventing growth. Habitat loss for agriculture and frequent fires have also contributed to declines.

Created By
Min Lee

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