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Overview

Brief Summary

Biology

The dragon tree is extremely slow-growing, taking 8 - 11 years to reach just 2 – 3 feet, when it begins to flower. Flowering occurs almost simultaneously on the Canary Islands, taking place only every 15 years (6). The flowering causes the stem to branch, resulting in a highly branched tree which can be aged according to the number of branches. The oldest individual is thought to be more than 650 years old (5). The sap of this species is used as colouring matter for varnishes, tooth-pastes, tinctures and plasters (4).
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Description

The name of this beautiful tree has mythical origins: for his 11th labour, 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 (2). The tree exudes 'dragon's blood' – a red sap – when cut (3). The trunks are long and slender and the leaves are prickly (4). The flowers are greenish-white and have a sweet smell (6). The orange-brown berries are a little smaller than a cherry, pointed and covered in a red, resinous substance, and taste sweet (4) (6).
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Distribution

Range

Populations totalling a few hundred trees are found on five of the seven Canary Islands, in addition to two individuals on Madeira Island, Portugal and populations in Cape Verde, Morocco and about 50 – 80 trees on the Azorean Islands, particularly on Ilha das Flores (1) (6).
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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
Long living, this species reaches maturity in 30 years.

Systems
  • Terrestrial
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The dragon tree is found in dry forests (1). On Madeira and in the Azores, the plant grows in steep coastal cliffs usually below 200 m altitude. In the Canaries, it can be found in inaccessible cliffs from 100 - 600 m altitude, and in Morocco and Cabo Verde it grows high in the mountains (6).
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Dracaena draco

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Dracaena draco

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 4
Specimens with Barcodes: 6
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
VU
Vulnerable

Red List Criteria
A1abcde

Version
2.3

Year Assessed
1998
  • Needs updating

Assessor/s
Bañares, A. et al.

Reviewer/s

Contributor/s

History
  • 1997
    Vulnerable
    (Walter and Gillett 1998)
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Status

The dragon tree is classified as Vulnerable (VU A1abcde) on the IUCN Red List 2003 (1). It is listed as Endangered in the Red Data Book of Cape Verde (2).
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Population

Population
The wild subpopulations of the dragon tree have been in decline for a long time. The species is present in five of the seven islands in the Canaries and the total population is reduced to a few hundred trees. In Madeira and Porto Santo, it was once an important component of the vegetation in more arid areas but is reduced today to two individuals in the wild. A survey in 1996 revealed new subpopulations in North Africa, in the Anezi region of the Anti-Atlas Mts. in Morocco. Thousands of individuals exist on steep quartzite cliffs in inaccessible gorges. These subpopulations are likely to represent a distinct variant of the species. Its closest relative is the dragon tree endemic to Socotra.
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Threats

Major Threats
Dragon's blood had a wide range of uses as a medicine, for staining violins and for embalming the dead. Its closest relative is the dragon tree endemic to Socotra.
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This species has undergone an extreme decline because of complex problems. It is said that its seeds used to germinate as a result of being eaten by a flightless bird and passing through the bird's gut, but following the extinction of this bird, the seeds can nolonger germinate without human manipulation. However, this is a hypothesis only, and cannot be proved. There are even a few young trees in the Azores and in Morocco, despite the absence human seed preparation (6). Serious threats include the introduced rats that feed on the seeds and the goats and rabbits that graze on seedlings and young plants, preventing growth (6). Habitat loss for agriculture and because of fires has also contributed to declines (1).
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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
The species is listed in regional, governmental and international legislation. It is widespread in cultivation.
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Conservation

This species is widespread in cultivation around the world, as well as being listed in regional, governmental and international legislation (1), but if it is to survive in the wild, conservation plans to educate and to create a network of protected areas must be put into practice (2).
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Wikipedia

Dracaena draco

Dracaena draco, the Canary Islands Dragon Tree or Drago is a subtropical Dragon Tree native to the Canary Islands, Cape Verde, Madeira, and locally in western Morocco, and introduced to the Azores. This tree is the natural symbol of the island of Tenerife (Canary Islands, Spain), together with the chaffinch Fringilla teydea.[1]

Dracaena draco in Vila Nova Sintra, Island of Brava, Cape Verde.

Contents

Description

The Dracaena draco tree is characterised by a single or multiple trunk growing up to 12 metres (39 ft) tall (rarely more), with a dense umbrella-shaped canopy of thick leaves. It grows slowly, requiring about ten years to reach 1 metre (3 ft 3 in) tall. Young trees remain with only a single stem; branching occurs when the tree flowers, when two side shoots at the base of the flower panicle continue the growth as a fork in the stem.

Being monocotyledonous, Dracaena draco does not display annual rings and age can only be estimated by the number of branch forking occurrences (indicating the number of flowering episodes) and measuring the frequency of flowering (less than annual). Some specimens are believed to be up to 650 years old; the oldest is growing at Icod de los Vinos in northwest Tenerife.

Subspecies

The recently discovered wild populations in western Morocco have been described as a separate subspecies, Dracaena draco subsp. ajgal. Some of the plants on Gran Canaria are referred to a separate species Dracaena tamaranae, which is more closely related to East African and Arabian Dracaena.

Uses

When the bark or leaves are cut they secrete a reddish resin, one of the sources of the substance known as Dragon's blood, used to stain wood, such as of Stradivarius violins. The Guanches worshiped a specimen in Tenerife, and hollowed its trunk into a small sanctuary. Humboldt saw it at the time of his visit. It was 70 feet (21 m) tall and 45 feet (14 m) in circumference, and was estimated to be 6000 years old. It was destroyed by a storm in 1868.[2] It has a number of traditional medicinal uses.[3]

Cultivation

Dracaena draco is cultivated in the horticulture trade and widely available as an ornamental tree for gardens, drought tolerant water conserving sustainable landscape projects.

Dragon's blood was also called “Indian cinnabar” by Greek writers.

References

  1. ^ Ley 7/1991, de 30 de abril, de símbolos de la naturaleza para las Islas Canarias - in spanish
  2. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg "Dracæna draco". New International Encyclopedia. 1905. 
  3. ^ Gupta D., Bleakley B., Gupta R.K. "Dragon's blood: Botany, chemistry and therapeutic uses" Journal of Ethnopharmacology 2007 115:3 (361-380)

Bibliography

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