Dracaena (plant)

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(Redirected from Dragon tree)
For the reptiles of the same genus name, see Dracaena (lizard)
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Scientific classification
Family:Ruscaceae (Dracaenaceae)

See text

Dracaena is a genus of about 40 species of trees and succulent shrubs in the family Ruscaceae, or, according to some treatments, separated (with Cordyline) into a family of their own, Dracaenaceae or in the Agavaceae. The majority of the species are native in Africa and nearby islands, with a few in southern Asia and one in tropical Central America.


They divide into two groups, perhaps better treated as separate genera:

  1. A group of tree-size species with stout trunks and stiff, broad-based leaves, growing in arid semi-desert areas, and known as Dragon trees: D. americana, D. arborea, D. cinnabari, D. draco.
  2. A group of smaller, shrubby species with slender stems and flexible strap-shaped leaves, growing as understorey plants in rainforests (and very popular as houseplants): D. bicolor, D. cincta, D. concinna, D. deremensis, D. elliptica, D. fragrans, D. goldieana, D. hookeriana, D. marmorata, D. phrynioides, D. reflexa, D. sanderiana, D. surculosa, D. thalioides, D. umbraculifera.
Dragon trees
Shrubby dracaenas
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Several other species previously included in Dracaena are now treated in the genus Cordyline.


Dragon's blood, a bright red gum used in ancient Roman and mediaeval magic and alchemy, then believed by the users to be the dried blood of dragons, is the dried resin tapped from the stems of Dracaena draco, native to the Canary Islands and Morocco, and D. cinnabari, endemic to the island of Socotra off the south coast of Arabia west of Somalia. It was used as a dye and medicine in the Mediterranean. It was also used for ceremonial purposes in India. Now it is used as a varnish for violins and in photoengraving. The dragon's blood known to the ancient Romans was mostly collected from the base of the leaves of D. cinnabari, and is mentioned in the 1st century Periplus (30:10. 17) as one of the products of Socotra. Socotra had been an important trading centre since at least the time of the Ptolemies.

There was great confusion in the Roman world, and in China, between the resin, "true" dragon's blood, and the poisonous mineral cinnabar (mercury sulphide).

In later centuries dragon's blood from the various species of Dracaea was replaced to a great extent by a similar red resin produced by one of the rattan palms of the genus Daemonorops, found in the Indonesian islands and known there as jerang or djerang, which is used in China to give a red surface to writing paper.

Dragon's Blood is currently used for its ability to heal wounds. It is used in witchcraft as a power amplifier, for protection, love, banishing and potency.


  • Casson, L. 1989. The Periplus Maris Erythraei. Princeton University Press. Especially pp. 69, 169-170. ISBN 0-691-04060-5.
  • Schafer, E. H. 1963. The Golden Peaches of Samarkand: A study of T'ang Exotics. University of California Press. First paperback edition, 1985., p. 211. ISBN 0-520-05462-8
  • Schoff, Wilfred H. 1912. The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea. Longmans, Green, and Co., New York, Second Edition. Reprint: New Delhi, Oriental Books Reprint Corporation. 1974. (A new hardback edition is available from Coronet Books Inc. Also reprinted by South Asia Books, 1995, ISBN 8-121506-99-9 )

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