Since I chose such a distinctive tree to adorn my website, perhaps I should explain what they are.
They’re dragon’s blood trees and grow in the Socotra archipelago, in the Indian Ocean and part of Yemen.
I think they look strange but rather alluring and their resin has been used since the ancient Greeks recognised their medicinal worth and colouring properties.
The resin is what gives its name to the trees, though why it should be dragon’s blood rather than any other creature I’m at a loss to know.
But so useful is this resin that it’s still used in medicines today. It’s also used in dyes, incense and varnish for colouring.
The Socotris call the resin emzoloh and it’s believed that Stradivarius used the colour in making his famous violins.
Socotra is an interesting place, separated from the Yemen mainland over 30 million years ago. Its isolation has meant that a third of all the species found on Socotra are unique to the island. Imagine that; it must be so interesting to visit.
Like many other plants and animals in the world, the dragon tree has adapted to the climate and conditions on the island. It’s umbrella shape shades its roots and its leaves trap moisture from the air during the monsoon season and channel it to the roots.
The locals feed berries from the tree to their cattle, though apparently they must only have very small quantities otherwise it causes harm. These people must be close to nature and understand how these indigenous species should be used to help rather than harm them.
Let’s hope the western world doesn’t catch on to the benefits of the dragon tree or they’ll be harvested to extinction within a few years I can imagine!
As it is, the dragon tree is under threat from climate change as Socotra is much dryer than it used to be. Let’s hope this amazing tree survives and flourishes for generations to come.