The dragon blood tree is an iconic tree native to the Socotra archipelago, part of Yemen, located in
the Arabian Sea.
The famous red resin that gives it its name is exuded from the bark after wounding.
The dragon blood tree is an evergreen tree that can live up to 650 years and reaches heights of around 10 to 12 meters (33 to 39 feet).
The tree grows slowly, about one meter (3 feet) every ten years.
The dragon blood tree is a succulent, very hardy and drought tolerant. It enjoys warm temperatures and sub-tropical conditions.
It is usually found at elevations of between 300 and 1,500 meters (980 and 4,920 feet).
The dragon blood tree has a unique and strange appearance, with an “upturned, densely packed crown having the shape of an uprightly held umbrella”.
Like other monocotyledons, such as palms, the dragon blood tree grows from the tip of the stem, with the long, stiff leaves borne in dense rosettes at the end.
It branches at maturity to produce an umbrella-shaped crown, with leaves that measure up to 60 cm (23.6 in) long and 3 cm (1.2 in) wide.
Leaves appear only on the ends of the youngest branches, last for 3 or 4 years, then fall off and are replaced by a new set.
The dragon blood tree flowers around February. The flowers tend to grow at the end of the branches. The flowers have inflorescences, and they bear small clusters of fragrant, white or green flowers.
The fruits take five months to completely mature. The fruits are described as a fleshy berry, which changes from green through black to orange-red when ripe. The fleshy berry fruit contains one to three seeds. The berries are usually eaten and dispersed by birds and other animals.
The first description of the dragon blood tree was made during a survey of Socotra led by Lieutenant Wellsted of the East India Company in 1835.
The dragon blood tree has been the major commercial source of this resin, and many myths surround the unusual trees.
The local inhabitants of the city in the Socotra Island use the dragon’s blood resin as a cure-all. Greeks, Romans, and Arabs use it in general wound healing, as a coagulant, cure for diarrhea, for dysentery diseases, for lowering fevers. It is also taken for ulcers in the mouth, throat, intestines and stomach.
In 1883, the Scottish botanist Isaac Bayley Balfour identified three grades of resin; the most valuable were tear-like in appearance, then a mixture of small chips and fragments, with a mixture of fragments and debris being the cheapest.
Because of the belief that it is the blood of the dragon it is also used in ritual magic and alchemy.
In neopagan Witchcraft, it is used to increase the potency of spells for protection, love, banishing and sexuality. In New Age shamanism it is used in ceremonies in a similar way as the neopagans use it.
In American Hoodoo, African-American folk magic, and New Orleans voodoo, it is used in mojo hands for money-drawing or love-drawing, and is used as incense to cleanse a space of negative entities or influences. It is also added to red ink to make “Dragon’s Blood Ink”, which is used to inscribe magical seals and talismans.
Dragon’s blood resin was used as a source of varnish (transparent, hard, protective finish) for 18th-century Italian violin-makers. It is still used as varnish for violins and for photoengraving
There was also an 18th-century recipe for toothpaste that contained dragon’s blood.
Dragon’s blood incense is also occasionally sold as “red rock opium” to unsuspecting would-be drug buyers. It actually contains no opiates, and has only slight psychoactive effects, if any at all.
Dragon’s blood continues to be used in medicine, dyes, varnish and incense to this day.
One legend states that the first dragon blood tree was created from the blood of a dragon that was wounded when it fought an elephant.
Another legend states that the dragon blood tree is related to the ancient dragon Ladon, who had one hundred heads and spoke in many different voices. When Juno (Queen of the Gods and mother of Mars) married, her mother Gaia gave her three golden apples and ordered Ladon to guard them in the Garden of the Hesperides. Hercules was ordered to steal the golden apples and so killed Ladon, and from Ladon’s blood sprang the dragon blood tree.