DRAGON BLOOD TREE
Scientific Name : Dracaena cinnabari Balf
Family : Asparagaceae
Genus : Dracaena
Species : cinnabari
Common Names : Socotra dragon tree, Dragon blood tree
Distribution : Native to a single island in the Socotra archipelago
Dracaena cinnabari, often known as the Socotra dragon tree or dragon blood tree, is one of the world’s most unusual plants. The leaves only grow at the ends of branches and point upwards, giving the tree a peculiar exterior form that resembles a large umbrella.
It has a lot of branches, and it grows through dichotomy, which means that each branch is split in half until the leaves appear at the ends. It produces a large number of green leaves that are regenerated every three to four years; they drop off and are replaced with new leaves.
Dragon Blood Tree is a 9-metre-tall evergreen tree with a thick crown. Typically, the tree branches out freely to produce a characteristic umbrella shape. It is only found on the island of Socotra, the northeast coast of Africa, where numbers appear to have been declining for some years. Even though many trees survive, regeneration is limited.
The loss appears to be connected to the region’s progressive drying and overgrazing, which causes young plants to be eaten. This species now occupies just 5% of its prospective habitats, and approximately 100 years of typical regeneration is lacking. As a result, the tree is included on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species as ‘Vulnerable’ (2004).
The dragon blood tree is an uncommon plant belonging to the Asparagaceae family’s dracaena genus. It thrives in rocky terrain and high altitudes, where it can store water for many years; it is drought-tolerant and can adapt to dry circumstances with little water and soil.
The dragon blood tree initially emerged in the Mediterranean region approximately 50 million years ago. It is presently found in Socotra, Yemen, in a natural reserve with 360 endangered species of plants and animals. The dragon blood may also be found in certain subtropical woods and on Mount Dhofar in Oman.
Dracaena cinnabari is a dry tropics plant that thrives in locations where the monsoon brings cloudy and rainy weather for many months each year. It grows in seasonally dry climates, with annual precipitation ranging from 200 to 500mm and average annual temperatures of 18 to 20°C.
It necessitates well-drained soil and full light. Drought tolerance is high in established trees. The tree is one of the numerous species that produce a crimson resin from its stem. This resin, sometimes known as ‘Dragon’s Blood,’ is frequently used externally to cure various skin conditions and injuries.
Importance and uses
According to a new study published in the journal Forests, the tree might also be considered an umbrella species, with its preservation benefiting a wide range of other species. After two months of investigation, the researchers discovered that 280 trees offered food and shelter to at least 12 of Socotra’s indigenous reptile species, including ten geckos, one chameleon, and a snake. Some of these species have only been seen a few times, so they are unlikely to be completely reliant on the dragon’s blood, while others, such as the critically endangered gecko Hemidactylus dracaenacolus, appear to dwell exclusively in the trees.
The tree produces resin. When shattered, the ‘Socotra dragon blood’ appears in tears of magnificent garnet colour. Varnishes include this. This is the major cause for cutting or trimming the tree and the dry resin is melted and used to colour and sketch pottery, bottles, and other objects. The resin can also be applied to the skin as a cosmetic. Fresh resin, in particular, is eaten, and the liquid is utilised as a crimson lipstick and fingernail varnish. As a smoothing and softening agent, a paste made from new resin is combined with Curcuma and applied to the face.
The tree’s resin has antifungal, antioxidant, astringent, and hemostatic properties. It’s used to treat hemorrhages. The fresh and dried resins have a long usage history, primarily for exterior applications. The resin possesses therapeutic values, and it is used to treat skin disorders such as acne, rashes, boils, inflammation, blisters, and burns. It is also used to treat dental problems such as tooth decay, eye problems such as conjunctivitis and inflammation, gastrointestinal tract difficulties, and bleeding including internal bleeding, where the resin will be taken internally.