Monday, 19 August 2013

Taxon of the Day: Dracaena draco

Dragon tree

Taxon of the Day looks at another species assessed as vulnerable by the Catalogue of Life's partner organisation the IUCN Redlist: Dracaena draco (L.) L. is commonly known as Dragon tree or just Draco and is native to Macronesia and Morocco including the island of La Palma where this photo was taken. Seen in the wild, a mature specimen is a spectacular sight however not so much when seen, as is common in temperate climates, as a houseplant - popular mostly due to its toughness rather than its beauty in a pot. Similar to a previous Taxon of the Day entry Yucca brevifolia, it has the word tree in its common name, yet it is highly questionable whether it would be wise to categorise it as such. A monocot in the plant family Asparagaceae it has some characteristics which may make us think tree! Most noteably it looks like one, with a tree-like growth habit. Starting with a single stem that branches, that offshoot then grows for about 10-15 years before re-branching itself, finally resulting in the umbrella like configuration shown in the photo. However, unlike a conventional tree, it doesn't have growth rings so age is calculated by counting branching points. The oldest known specimen, currently found on Tenerife, is thought to be around 250 years old. It also has no use as a timber product but its red resin (Dragon's blood) has historically been used as a dye, including as a stain for Stradivarius violins.

It has been well represented in culture and mythology appearing most noteably in the fantastical triptych The Garden of Earthly Delights painted by Heironymous Bosch (the featuring section is shown below) and in the Greek myth The Apples of The HespĂ©rides. It also acted as a backdrop to Marylin Monroe in Some Like It Hot, where the tree (or plant) in question continues to be a tourist attraction outside the Hotel Del in San Diego, California.

The Garden of Earthly Delights


CoL Annual Checklist: Dracaena draco (L.) L.
CoL contributor: World Checklist of Selected Plant Families
Image copyright: Zyance [CC-BY-SA-2.5], via Wikimedia Commons

1 comment:

  1. For more on dragon trees check http://blogs.reading.ac.uk/tropical-biodiversity/2013/03/dracaenaceae-dragons-blood-and-the-language-of-the-birds/

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