National Arboretum Canberra


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Forest 15 - Dragon Tree

Dracaena draco

Dragon tree planted at WAITE Arboretum, Adelaide in 1929.The Arboretum's dragon trees, shown here, first flowered in December 2016

Dragon tree planted at WAITE Arboretum, Adelaide in 1929. The Arboretum's dragon trees, shown here, first flowered in December 2016.

Other common names

Drago, Canary Islands dragon tree

Origin of the species name

Dracaena is derived from Greek for a female dragon; draco from Latin and Greek words for a dragon.

Family

Asparagaceae

Date planted

October 2008 and December 2009

Lifespan

The oldest D. draco growing in the Canary Islands is believed to be approximately 365 years old.

General description

This is a slow-growing evergreen tree characterised by a single or multiple trunk, with a dense umbrella-shaped canopy of thick leaves with sharp tips. It has lily-like flowers and is related to the cordylines. Height 12m Spread 10m.

Natural distribution and habitat

The species is native to the Canary Islands, Cape Verde and Madeira where it occurs in areas known as thermophile (heat loving) forests which have moderate temperature and rainfall conditions and contain several of the island's endemic species.

Conservation status

It is a threatened species in the wild.  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 the more arid areas of Madeira and Porto Santo, it was once an important component of the vegetation but is now reduced to two individuals in the wild.  Although threatened in the wild it has been cultivated in many countries around the world.

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 for violins.  Dragon's blood had a wide range of uses as a medicine, for staining violins and for embalming the dead.

Planting pattern

A regular square grid, mostly in rows of 5 trees.

Further reading

Bramwell D. and Z. Bramwell (2001) Wild Flowers of the Canary Islands(2nd Ed). City: Rueda, Spain.

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