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Discover the Mysteries of the Dragon Blood Tree

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Written By Lakeisha Ethans

Heritage Gardener with Grafting Expertise

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Home » Ancient & Remarkable Trees » Discover the Mysteries of the Dragon Blood Tree

Imagine wandering through the rugged terrain of Socotra, an island that looks like it’s been plucked from the pages of a fantasy novel, when you stumble upon a gathering of nature’s own umbrellas — the dragon blood trees.

These aren’t your average leafy giants!

Upright Crown of the Dragon Blood Tree

Dragon’s Blood trees, despite their name, are not true trees but rather sizable succulents. They share a closer botanical kinship with asparagus than with any other tree species!

Picture a tree so quirky that its crown flips upward, resembling an umbrella held proudly aloft.

Known scientifically as Dracaena cinnabari, these trees bleed a mysterious dark red resin aptly named “dragon’s blood.”

Far from being a mere novelty, this resin has been a high-demand item through history, used in everything from ancient rituals to 18th-century violin varnish.

Yes, that’s right, even Stradivari might have reached for dragon’s blood to give his violins that extra pizzazz!

Dried Resin of the Dragon Blood Tree
Dried Resin of the Dragon Blood Tree

Now, let’s talk about the tree’s astonishing biology.

Unlike most trees that seem to grow every which way, the dragon blood tree grows like a well-mannered Brit — stiff upper lip and all.

Leaves sprout from branch tips of Dragon Blood Tree
Leaves sprout from young branch tips of Dragon Blood Tree

Its leaves sprout only from the tips of the youngest branches, shedding every three to four years in a synchronized leafy ballet.

Branching occurs when the tree’s growth is rudely interrupted by flowering or, less romantically, by a goat munching on its tip.

Flowering Dragon Blood Tree
Flowering Dragon Blood Tree

As for survival, this tree is a master tactician.

Its upturned crown minimizes water loss in the scorching sun and provides a shady haven for its offspring, ensuring the family lineage continues in harsh conditions.

They’ve been doing so since, well, possibly the time dinosaurs roamed, given their ancient lineage and isolated home.

Speaking of home, Socotra is not just any island. It’s a veritable treasure chest of biodiversity but, like a chest in an attic, it’s under threat from the usual culprits: overgrazing, and unfortunately, human encroachment.

Socotra Island
Socotra Island

Each tree is a mini oasis, a beacon of life in the arid landscape, and efforts are underway to ensure they don’t just survive but thrive.

Fascinatingly, the local people and conservationists are banding together like the cast of an epic film, fighting the good fight to protect these trees.

They water young saplings, fend off voracious goats, and have even set up tree nurseries to armor the island against the loss of these botanical umbrellas.

So next time you dab on some lipstick or mend a pot with glue, think of the dragon blood tree and its centuries-old resin, still coloring our world and stitching up our pottery.

Dragon Blood Tree on Socotra Island

From providing shade and resin to starring in ancient healing recipes and modern conservation efforts, the dragon blood tree isn’t just surviving — it’s a living legacy of nature’s ingenuity and humankind’s resourcefulness.

Who wouldn’t want to rally behind such an underdog — or should we say, under-tree?

Want More?

If you enjoy learning about strange or historical trees, I think you would enjoy reading about Tāne Mahuta ‘God of the Forest’ or the Sandbox tree, also known as the ‘Dynamite tree’.

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Lakeisha Ethans

Heritage Gardener with Grafting Expertise

Lakeisha grew up in East Africa, literally surrounded by nature which sparked her interest in learning more about trees and plants from a very young age. She belongs to a family of gardeners, so for her, gardening is a way of life, a tradition she’s proud to uphold. As a self-taught gardener, Lakeisha has successfully grafted trees to produce hybrids for gardens and landscapes. When she’s not gardening, she’s writing about her experience with nature or watching baking fails!