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Dracaena draco

Dracaena draco, Photo: Michael Lahanas

Classification System: APG IV

Superregnum: Eukaryota
Regnum: Plantae
Cladus: Angiosperms
Cladus: Monocots
Ordo: Asparagales

Familia: Asparagaceae
Subfamilia: Nolinoideae
Tribus: Dracaeneae
Genus: Dracaena
Species: Dracaena draco
Subspecies: D. d. subsp. ajgal – D. d. subsp. draco

Dracaena drago (L.) L., Syst. Nat. ed. 12, 2: 246. 1767.

Asparagus draco L., Sp. Pl. ed. 2: 451. 1762.
Type locality :"Habitat in India orientali." [in error]
Lectotypus: (designated by Bos in Jarvis & a!., Regnum Veg. 127: 43. 1993): [icon] "Draco" in Clusius, Rar. Pl. Hist 1: 1. 1601.
Draco arbor Garsault, Fig. Pl. Méd.: t. 90. 1764, opus utiq. oppr.
Draco dragonalis Crantz, Duab. Drac. Arbor.: 14. 1768, nom. illeg.
Palma draco (L.) Mill., Gard. Dict. ed. 8: n.º 11. 1768.
Stoerkia draco (L.) Crantz, Duab. Drac. Arbor.: 25. 1768.
Dracaena resinifera Salisb., Prodr. Stirp. Chap. Allerton: 253. 1796, nom. superfl.
Drakaina draco (L.) Raf., Fl. Tellur. 4: 17. 1838.
Yucca draco (L.) Carrière, Rev. Hort. (Paris), sér. 4, 8: 389. 1859.
Draco draco (L.) Linding., Abh. Auslandsk., Reihe C, Naturwiss. 8: 309. 1926, nom. inval.

Native distribution areas:

Continental: Africa
Regional: Northern Africa
Regional: Macaronesia
Azores (introduced), Canary Islands, Cape Verde (extinct), Madeira

References: Brummitt, R.K. 2001. TDWG – World Geographical Scheme for Recording Plant Distributions, 2nd Edition

Linnaeus, C. 1767. Syst. Nat. ed. 12, 2: 246.
Hansen, A. & Sunding, P. 1985. Flora of Macaronesia. Checklist of vascular plants. 3. revised edition. Sommerfeltia 1: 5–103.
Albano, P.-O. 2003. La Connaissance des Plantes Exotiques. 324 pp. Édisud, Aix-en-Provence.
Mwachala, G. & Mbugua, P.K. 2007. Dracaenaceae. Flora of Tropical East Africa: 1–43.
Dobignard, A. & Chatelain, C. 2010. Index synonymique de la flore d'Afrique du Nord. Volume 1: Pteridophyta, Gymnospermae, Monocotyledoneae. Conservatoire et jardin botaniques, Genève, ISBN 978-2-8277-0120-9, 455 pp. PDF Reference page.
Jarvis, C.E., Barrie, F.R., Allan, D.M. & Reveal, J.L. 1993. A List of Linnaean Generic Names and their Types. Regnum Vegetabile 127: 1–100. Reference page.
Jarvis, C.E. 2007. Order out of Chaos: Linnaean Plant Names and their Types. London: Linnean Society of London in association with the Natural History Museum, ISBN 978-0-9506207-7-0, p. 487. Reference page.


Govaerts, R. et al. 2019. Dracaena draco in World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Published on the internet. Accessed: 2019 Jan. 26. Reference page.
African Plants Database (version 3.4.0). Dracaena draco. Conservatoire et Jardin botaniques de la Ville de Genève and South African National Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria. Accessed: 2019 Mar. 13.
International Plant Names Index. 2019. Dracaena draco. Published online. Accessed: Jan. 26 2019.
The Plant List 2013. Dracaena draco in The Plant List Version 1.1. Published on the internet. Accessed: 2019 Jan. 26.
Tropicos.org 2019. Dracaena draco. Missouri Botanical Garden. Published on the internet. Accessed: 2019 Jan. 26.

Vernacular names
čeština: dračinec dračí
Deutsch: Kanarischer Drachenbaum
English: Dragon tree
español: Drago
suomi: Kanariantraakkipuu
français: Dragonnier des Canaries
magyar: Kanári sárkányfa
italiano: Albero del drago, Dracena
Türkçe: Ejder ağacı

Dracaena draco, the Canary Islands dragon tree or drago,[4] is a subtropical tree in the genus Dracaena, native to the Canary Islands, Cape Verde, Madeira, western Morocco, and is thought to be introduced in the Azores.[5] It is the natural symbol of the island of Tenerife, together with the blue chaffinch.[6] Its closest living relative is the dragon's blood tree of Socotra, Dracaena cinnabari.[1]

It was first described by Carl Linnaeus in 1762 as Asparagus draco.[3][7] In 1767 he assigned it to the new genus, Dracaena.[3][8]

Dracaena draco in a village in Morocco

Dracaena draco is an evergreen long lived tree with up to 15 m (49 ft) or more in height and a trunk 5 m (16 ft) or more in circumference, starting with a smooth bark that evolves to a more rough texture as it ages.[9] Monocot, with a branching growth pattern currently placed in the asparagus family (Asparagaceae, subfamily Nolinoidae).[10] When young it has a single stem. At about 10–15 years of age the stem stops growing and produces a first flower spike with white, lily-like perfumed flowers, followed by coral berries. Soon a crown of terminal buds appears and the plant starts branching. Each branch grows for about 10–15 years and re-branches, so a mature plant has an umbrella-like habit. It grows slowly, requiring about 10 years to reach 1.2 metres (4 ft) in height, but can grow much faster.[11]

Despite being a monocotyledon, it still has annual or growth rings. There is considerable genetic variation within the Canary Island dragon trees. The form found on Gran Canaria is now treated as a separate species, Dracaena tamaranae, based on differences in flower structure. The form endemic to La Palma initially branches very low with numerous, nearly vertical branches arranged fastigiately. There is a forest of such trees at Las Tricias, Garafia district, La Palma.[12][13]


D. draco subsp. draco: Endemic to Madeira and Canary Islands[14]
D. draco subsp. ajgal Benabid & Cuzin: Endemic to Morocco[15]
D. draco subsp. caboverdeana Marrero Rodr. & R.S.Almeida: Endemic to the Cape Verde islands[16]

Distribution and habitat

Dracaena draco is native to Macaronesia and southwest Morocco, where it is commonly cultivated as an ornamental plant. On the Canary and Madeira archipelagos, wild endemic populations today are known only in Tenerife and Madeira after recently going extinct in the wild in Gran Canaria. Wild populations in Morocco extend to the southwest Atlas Mountains. Its origin on the Azores is uncertain but it is thought to result from an introduction made by the Portuguese prior to 1500 with seeds from Madeira and Cape Verde, as some individuals were observed to have similarities with the Cape Verdean subspecies (subsp. caboverdeana); there are around 200-300 individuals on remote sites in the island of São Jorge and a few more on other islands and is unknown if these populations can be considered native or the result of an early introduction.[5][17]

When the bark or leaves are cut they secrete a reddish resin, one of several sources of substances known as dragon's blood. Red resins from this tree contain many mono- and dimeric flavans that contribute to the red color of the resins.[18] Dragon's blood has a number of traditional medical uses, although dragon's blood obtained from Dracaena draco was not known until the 15th century,[19] and analyses suggest that most dragon's blood used in art was obtained from species of the genus Daemonorops.[20] The primary and secondary plant body are the site of the secretory plant tissues that form dragon's blood. These tissues include ground parenchyma cells and cortex cells.[21] Dragon's blood from Dracaena draco and Dracaena cinnabari can be distinguished by differences in 10 compounds and a dominant flavonoid DrC11 missing in Dracaena draco.[20]

The Guanches worshiped a specimen in Tenerife, and hollowed its trunk into a small sanctuary. Humboldt saw it at the time of his visit. It was 70 feet (21 m) tall and 45 feet (14 m) in circumference, and was estimated to be 6000 years old. It was destroyed by a storm in 1868.[22]

Dracaena draco is cultivated and widely available as an ornamental tree for parks, gardens, and drought tolerant water conserving sustainable landscape projects. It has gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit.[23][24]

In 2017, the city of Angra do Heroísmo (Terceira Island) planted a grove of 200 dragon trees.[25][26]

The Museum of Wine on Pico Island, Azores, has one of the largest concentrations of this species in Macaronesia, some being more than 100 years old.[27]

A large dragon's blood tree in Amadora, Portugal

Dragon tree in the Will Rogers Memorial Park in Beverly Hills, California

Notable trees

Photo Name Location
Parque del Drago 2019 110.jpg El Drago Milenario Icod de los Vinos, Tenerife
At La Palma 2021 0609.jpg Dragos Gemelos Breña Alta, La Palma

See also

List of animal and plant symbols of the Canary Islands
Wildlife of Cape Verde#Flora


Bañares, A.; et al. (1998). "Dracaena draco". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 1998: e.T30394A9535771. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.1998.RLTS.T30394A9535771.en.
"Dracaena draco", World Checklist of Selected Plant Families, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, retrieved 2013-11-12
"Dracaena draco (L.) L. | Plants of the World Online | Kew Science". Plants of the World Online. Retrieved 2021-09-17.
"Forest 15 - Dragon Tree", National Arboretum Canberra, Australian Government, retrieved 2018-09-22
Almeida Pérez, R.S. & Beech, E. (2017). "Dracaena draco". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2017: e.T30394A103368016.
"BOC - 1991/061. Viernes 10 de Mayo de 1991 - 577". www.gobcan.es.
Linnaeus, C. (1762). Species plantarum. 1 (2 ed.). p. 451.
Linnaeus, C. (1767). "Dracaena". Systema naturae: per regna tria natura, secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis (ed. 12). 2: 246.
"Dracaena draco (L.) L." University of Madeira. Retrieved 13 January 2021.
Chase, M.W.; Reveal, J.L. & Fay, M.F. (2009). "A subfamilial classification for the expanded asparagalean families Amaryllidaceae, Asparagaceae, and Xanthorrhoeaceae". Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society. 161 (2): 132–136. doi:10.1111/j.1095-8339.2009.00999.x.
"Dracaena Draco Farm". Retrieved 2011-11-03.
"Dracaena draco". www.floradecanarias.com.
"Buracas". visitlapalma.es. Visit La Palma.
"Dracaena draco subsp. draco". Catalogue of Life. Retrieved 13 January 2021.
"Dracaena draco subsp. ajgal Benabid & Cuzin". Catalogue of Life. Retrieved 13 January 2021.
Rodríguez, Pérez. "A new subspecies, Dracaena draco (L.) L. subsp. caboverdeana Marrero Rodr. & R.S. Almeida (Dracaenaceae) from the Cape Verde Islands". Retrieved 13 January 2021 – via researchgate.net.
"Dracaena draco subsp. draco". Flora-on. Retrieved 13 January 2021.
Porter, Lawrence J. (1988-01-01). "Flavans and proanthocyanidins". In Harborne, J. B. (ed.). The Flavonoids. Springer US. pp. 21–62. doi:10.1007/978-1-4899-2913-6_2. ISBN 9780412287701.
Gupta, D.; Bleakley, B.; Gupta, R.K. (2007). "Dragon's blood: Botany, chemistry and therapeutic uses". Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 115 (3): 361–380. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2007.10.018. PMID 18060708. Retrieved 2015-02-17.
Baumer, Ursula; Dietemann, Patrick (2010-06-01). "Identification and differentiation of dragon's blood in works of art using gas chromatography/mass spectrometry". Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry. 397 (3): 1363–1376. doi:10.1007/s00216-010-3620-0. ISSN 1618-2642. PMID 20349349. S2CID 13267387.
Jura-Morawiec, Joanna; Tulik, Mirela (2015-05-01). "Morpho-anatomical basis of dragon's blood secretion in Dracaena draco stem". Flora - Morphology, Distribution, Functional Ecology of Plants. 213: 1–5. doi:10.1016/j.flora.2015.03.003.
Gilman, D. C.; Peck, H. T.; Colby, F. M., eds. (1905). "Dracæna draco" . New International Encyclopedia (1st ed.). New York: Dodd, Mead.
"RHS Plant Selector - Dracaena draco". Retrieved 1 June 2020.
"AGM Plants - Ornamental" (PDF). Royal Horticultural Society. July 2017. p. 33. Retrieved 6 February 2018.
"Bosque de Dragoeiros · Tv. Do Fanal, Angra do Heroísmo, Portugal".

"Mata de Dragoeiros". Pico Museums. Retrieved 13 January 2021.

General bibliography

Arkive: Dracaena draco factsheet.
Dracaena draco in Morocco (photo gallery).
The climate requirements for Dracaena draco defined by its borders: Northernmost tree in the world, near 40°, northern Azores Islands and Southernmost dragon tree in the world, near 38°, Victoria, Australia (photos).
Benabid, A. & Cuzin, F. (1997). Dragon tree (Dracaena draco subsp. ajgal Benabid et Cuzin) populations in Morocco: Taxonomical, biogeographical and phytosociological values. Comptes Rendus de l'Académie des Sciences Série III Sciences de la Vie 320(3): 267–277.

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