Dragon Blood Tree
Scientific name: Dracaena cinnabari
Distribution: Socotra, an archipelago in Yemen
Other names: Socotra dragon tree
Due to the island’s geographic isolation, around 307 plant species are found nowhere else in the world except Socotra. But no other plant on this particular archipelago is as striking as the Dragon blood tree.
The tree is named so because of its red, blood-like sap. The tree is considered sacred by the local inhabitants as nearly all parts of this tree has some beneficial value. For instance, its monocot root is used to treat rheumatic disorders. The roots also yield a resin that can be gargled or be used as a toothpaste.
The sap is called dragon’s blood and has many applications from medicines and dye to incense and varnish. Besides this, the sap also had ornamental value in the ancient world, where it was used as a lipstick, a breath fresher and for glueing pottery.
The leaves of the dragon blood tree also help to relieve flatulence and some gastrointestinal problems. The locals even consider the resin as a sort of “cure-all”. The ancient Greeks and Romans used it on their wounds as it had coagulating properties. It was also prescribed to treat dysentery and diarrhoea.
However, the tree has been classified as “vulnerable” by the IUCN due to threats to its ecological habitat. Industrial development, deforestation, overgrazing have severely fragmented the distribution of the trees. Such activities, if prolonged, will lead to the tree becoming an endangered species. Scientists have concluded that the biggest threat to the trees is the gradual drying out of the archipelago. The increasingly arid landscape will reduce the available habitat within the next 50 years, as a result, threating extinction for the species.
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