dragon trees

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a dragon tree, Dracaena draco, takes decades to reach even this size — Venice, Calif

A few years ago I had the opportunity to help with a small front garden, that was designed to receive only occasional hand watering. I planted agaves and other succulents, dymondia, some bromeliads, three Hesperaloe ‘Brakelights,’ (all of which withered away — why not choose life, hesperaloe!?) and a dragon tree, Dracaena draco, the first and only time I’ve planted this succulent tree. Although slow growing, I knew its potential size might be a problem — I seem to have a fatal attraction to Canary Islanders! Right now the dragon slumbers in the form of an innocuous, leafy rosette, roughly about 4X3′. But when it flowers, which is still a long way off, but when it does, its stem will begin to branch and develop that mesmerizingly dense, umbrella-like canopy, with branches radiating outward like arterioles, that can rise over 20 feet. Now, with the house changing hands soon, I’m debating whether to dig it up or leave the botanical time bomb in place.

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Dracaena cinnabari image by Daniel Kordan

My smoldering moral dilemma involving a single dragon tree was recently inflamed by some amazing images by photographer Daniel Kordan. Dracaena draco is not the only dragon tree named for its red sap, which Greek myth says originates in the dragon blood spilled when Hercules vanquished Ladon in the Garden of the Hesperides. The subject of Kordan’s photos is Dracaena cinnabari, the Socotra dragon tree from Yemen, that also spills red sap when cut, a resin used not only medicinally but also in many other applications such as for dyes and varnish. The storied dragon trees have sparked imaginations for millenia, Greek, Roman, and Arab. And now I’m in a quandary over what to do with the baby one I planted in a small city garden in Los Angeles, facing a busy sidewalk, where its presence goes mostly unnoticed….for now.

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Dracaena cinnabari image by Daniel Kordan

I might have to go shopping for a large pot this weekend for a baby dragon tree — and happy Father’s Day to all our dads!

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7 Responses to dragon trees

  1. Kris P says:

    Ha! I’m inclined to go with “let the buyer beware” but methinks you may want to watch the dragon grow.

  2. I second Kris’ statement!

  3. Joy says:

    This is a stunning “tree” .. the photos are amazing.
    I also think you should leave the baby dragon to it’s own devices, perhaps with a tacit buyer beware ? .. but this dragon needs to fulfill it’s story !

  4. Elaine says:

    Have to disagree, I think it should be re-homed where it can grow to it’s full potential. In my area people plant small spruce trees, always in the wrong place, but state “it won’t be my problem” when the thing becomes a beautiful giant and swallows the house.

  5. Jenny says:

    I’m sure that tree is more than a thousand years old. The one in Venice is beautiful and doesn’t look like a problem as its canopy is way above any interference. Let that baby be.

  6. Denise says:

    Reading your comments, it’s like you’ve all had access to my thoughts on this issue! I have a couple ideas on “rehoming” it where it can grow to its full potential, even if I have to keep it temporarily in a large pot. The trick will be not to spill too much of the dragon’s blood in digging it up! Thanks for all your input, much appreciated!

  7. hb says:

    Great images. A stunning plant. I had one for years and years in a pot, decided I didn’t have a place for it, asked everyone if they wanted it…finally this year found it a very good home with a lot of space and a gardener who really, really wanted it. Happy ending to that story.

    There’s one in the neighborhood that’s really impressive, in the front yard of a house built about 60 years ago. Not sure you need to worry. It’s big but appropriately sized for the front yard of a ranch house (and quite beautiful).

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