There is a tree that bleeds when when cut. The Dragon’s Blood tree, or Dracaena cinnabari. Not to be confused with Dracaena draco, the Canary Islands dragon tree, also found in nearby islands and western Morocco.
The first description of D. cinnabari was made during a survey of Socotra led by Lieutenant Wellsted of the East India Company in 1835. It was first named Pterocarpus draco, but in 1880, the Scottish botanist Isaac Bayley Balfour made a formal description of the species and renamed it as Dracaena cinnabari. Of between 60 and 100 Dracaena species, D. cinnabari is one of only 6 species which grows as a tree.
The Dragon blood tree is the most famous and distinctive plant of the island of Socotra. It has a unique and strange appearance, described as “upturned, densely-packed crown having the shape of an uprightly held umbrella”. This evergreen species is named after its dark red resin, that is known as “dragon’s blood”.
Unlike most monocot plants, the Dracaenaceae display secondary growth, D. cinnabari even has growth zones resembling tree rings found in dicot tree species. Along with other arborescent Dracaena species it has a distinctive growth habit called ‘Dracoid habitus’. Its leaves are only found at the end of its youngest branches, their leaves are all shed every 3 or 4 years before new leaves simultaneously mature. Branching tends to occur when the growth of the terminal bud is stopped, either due to flowering or traumatic events (e.g. herbivory).
Its fruits are small fleshy berries containing between 1 and 3 seeds. As they develop they turn from green to black and then become orange once they are ripe. The berries are eaten by birds (e.g. Onychognatus species) and thereby dispersed. The seeds are between 4mm and 5mm in diameter and weigh on average 68 mg. The berries exude a deep red resin, known as dragon’s blood.
Like other monocotyledons, such as palms, the dragon’s blood tree grows from the tip of the stem, with the long, stiff leaves borne in dense rosettes at the end (4, 5, 7). It branches at maturity to produce an umbrella shaped crown, with leaves that measure up to 60 centimeters long and 3 centimeters wide. The trunk and the branches of the Dragon blood are thick and stout and display dichotomous branching, where each of the branches repeatedly divide in two sections.