Socotra: Dragon Blood Trees – First Encounter
When I first saw the pictures of the dragon blood trees in Socotra, I immediately knew I needed to come to this amazing island. The war in Yemen has prevented this for many years, but it finally became possible. Just imagine driving up into the island’s central highlands and seeing your first mystic dragon blood tree! The dragon blood tree or Dracaena cinnabari in Latin, is a tree endemic to Socotra island and found nowhere else on Earth. The trees are very slow growing and can only be found on the limestone and granite highlands at elevation above 2000 feet, the name “dragon blood” coming from the red sap of the trees. The trees have been known for centuries and used by people for the sap and coloring, they are not remnants of ancient dragon blood tree forests. The bizarre trees are somewhat reminiscent of the Joshua trees in California or the Kokerboom trees in Namibia, but both the latter are actually aloes, while the dragon blood tree is completely different and unique. They are very otherworldly, standing on tabletop mountains in Socotra’s heartland like giant umbrellas. Sadly, while the trees are no longer cut for any use, there are almost no new trees on the island, as feral goats have destroyed almost every young sampling.