Dragon Trees – Dragoeiros da Madeira

Dragon Trees – Dragoeiros da Madeira

Dragon Trees – Dracaena Drago – Dragoeiros da Madeira

This mythical evergreen tree is native to the Macaronesia area (Madeira, Azores, Cape Verde, and the Canary Islands) and is thus a subtropical tree.  This sculptural tree is the symbol of the Island of Tenerife.  Their fat scaly trunks, upward reaching branches supporting an umbrella like canopy foliage of stiff blue green leaves are a real delight for eyes.  Hence, Dragon Trees are highlights in Madeira gardens as well.

Madeira Dragon Trees Nucleus – Nûcleo dos Dragoeiros das Neves

Growth of the Dragon Tree

The Dragon Tree has one single stem when it is young.  It grows very slowly.  It takes approximately 10 years to reach a height of 1.2 meters or 4 feet.  After about 10 to 15 years, the first flowers appear.  Soon after the fruits appear, the tree starts branching.  Each branch then grows for 10 to 15 years before it re-branches.  The trees thus grow in an umbrella-like shape.

Dragon Tree Flower and Fruit

Unlike trees, the Dracaena Drago does not have annual growth rings.  Counting the number of branching point from the main trunk to the canopy is the only way to estimate the age of the specimen.

Dragon Tree Dragoeiro da Madeira

Myth? The Eleventh Labour of Hercules – Dragon’s Blood

Hercules Dragon Tree Myth

A Greek myth depicts how Hercules needed to bring three golden apples from the garden of Hesperides.  Ladon, a 100-headed dragon, guarded the garden.  So, to get the apples, Hercules killed the dragon while spilling the dragon’s blood all over the land.  Everywhere the dragon’s red blood touched the ground, a Dragon Tree sprouted.  The tree’s trunk somewhat resembles a dragon’s scaly leg.

Dragon Tree Trunks Madeira

Versatile Uses

The Dragon Tree exudes a reddish coloured resin, one of several sources of a substance known as Dragon’s Blood. Dragons blood has many uses as a dye or varnish. The resin is used in works of art and as a wood stain on the famous Stradivarius violins.  Also, because of its antioxidant properties, the resin servers as a varnish for iron tools.  76 containers with Dragon’s blood sank with the Titanic in 1912.

Dragons blood has anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties.  People in Macaronesia attribute a number of traditional medicinal uses to the sap of this tree. Its anti-oxidant properties have led to its use in modern cosmetics for anti-ageing creams and studies are being carried out to verify reports of its suspected anti-cancer properties.  Some hair color formulas also use this sap.

The leaves provide fibers to make ropes. Furthermore, it was also used by the Guanche people of the Canary Islands for embalming the dead. Source & Source

Madeira Dragon Trees Nucleus – Nûcleo dos Dragoeiros das Neves

This beautiful species is on the verge of extinction.  Dracaena draco is listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List as ‘Species Vulnerable or Habitat Critically Threatened’.  The Regional Government of Madeira thus created a park with some beautiful old specimens.

Where is the Dragon Tree Nucleus?

Note: Open with free admission from 9H to 12H30 and from 14H to 17H30 on workdays only. Here is the official site of the gardens – Official Site.