Common Names: dragon tree, dragon blood tree
Family: Agavaceae (agave Family)
tree Shrub Palm Drought Tolerant Can be Grown in Containers Has
evergreen foliage Has Unusual or Interesting Foliage
Dragon tree is a palmlike member of the agave family, related to
Spanish bayonet (Yucca aloifolia), and century plant (Agave
americana). The overall shape is that of an umbrella with a thick,
swollen trunk and many stout, upright branches each terminating with
a rosette of stiff, sword shaped leaves about 2 ft (60 cm) long.
Mature plants produce terminal clusters of greenish flowers,
followed by round reddish orange fruits. In cultivation dragon tree
barely gets 20-30 ft (6-9 m) tall, but in its native habitat 50 ft
(15 m) tall specimens are not uncommon.
Dracaena draco is native to the Canary Islands, an archipelago of
seven volcanic islands in the Atlantic Ocean about 160 miles (100
km) off the northwest coast of Africa. In its native habitat, dragon
tree is an endangered species (listed as "Vulnerable") due to over
collecting for its red colored resin, called "dragon's blood".
Dragon tree is grown as an ornamental throughout the world in
Mediterranean climates, and is very popular in southern California.
Light: Dragon tree does best in full sun.
Moisture: Dragon tree is quite drought tolerant.
Hardiness: USDA Zones 9-11.
Propagation: Sow seeds in spring. Leafless sections of stem will
take root in summer.
Dragon tree is a slow grower, taking up to ten years to get just 3
ft (1 m) tall. And, it does not begin to branch until it has
flowered for the first time, usually after a couple decades of
growth. However, large specimens of this unusual tree make very
dramatic statements in the landscape, and are worth the wait. Their
palmlike, tropical appearance graces mansions and estates in
tropical and subtropical cities throughout the world. Dragon tree is
very long lived, with some specimens in the Canary Islands said to
be more than a thousand years old. Dragon tree is a good choice for
coastal areas since it tolerates salt spray and salty soils.
Dragon's blood, the red resin that flows from wounds on the trunk
and branches, was formerly used in Mediaeval alchemy, and for
embalming, and is today used as a varnish for violins and other fine
wood, and in photoengraving processes.
Dragon tree has red sap (resin) that has been likened to the blood
of dragons. (Dracaena means dragon in ancient Greek.) There are some
40 species of Dracaena, a genus closely related to and sometimes
confused with Cordyline. Many are small, herbaceous perennials,
tolerant of low light levels and popular as houseplants, quite
unlike the large, palmlike D. draco, featured here.