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Sat Apr 11, 2020, 08:14 AM

Fascinating! The Dragon's Blood Tree, A Bizarre Keystone Species Facing An Uncertain Future



Dragonís blood trees (Dracaena cinnabari) are evolutionary marvels of the plant kingdom, but they may not be around forever. Native to a single island in the Socotra archipelago, off the coast of Yemen in the Arabian Sea, the extraordinary-looking dragonís blood tree, which is classified as ďvulnerable to extinction,Ē can grow to more than 30 feet in height and live for 600 years. Looming over the islandís rocky, mountainous terrain, it produces rich berries and a vermilion sap ó the source of its name ó that has been used for centuries as everything from medicine to lipstick, and even as a varnish for violins.

Visually, the trees are stunning. Their branches grow in an outward-forking pattern that gives them the look of a giant mushroom or an umbrella sucked inside-out by the wind. And that appearance isnít the only umbrella-like aspect of the dragonís blood. New research, published in the journal Forests, suggest the tree could also be considered an umbrella species ó the protection of which would benefit a wide range of other species.

The umbrella species concept has traditionally been applied to large, wide-ranging, charismatic mammals and birds such as giant pandas, mountain gorillas and northern spotted owls. The theory is that by protecting these animals and their habitats you also, directly or indirectly, conserve everything else that lives near them. A team of researchers from Socotra, Spain and Portugal wanted to find out if the dragonís blood tree could do the same thing ó even though, unlike other umbrella species, it stays in one place. Itís not that big a leap: The tree has long been considered an indicator species, meaning it quickly shows signs of changes to its environment and plays host to a wide range of the islandís other unique wildlife. But would protecting the dragonís blood also help other species?

The researchers studied 280 trees for two months and found that they provided food and shelter to at least 12 of Socotraís endemic reptile species, including 10 geckos, one chameleon and a snake. Some of these species were only observed a few times, so they probably donít fully depend on the dragonís blood, but others, like the critically endangered gecko known only as Hemidactylus dracaenacolus, appear to only live amidst the trees.



EDIT

https://therevelator.org/dragons-blood-tree/

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Reply Fascinating! The Dragon's Blood Tree, A Bizarre Keystone Species Facing An Uncertain Future (Original post)
hatrack Apr 2020 OP
littlemissmartypants Apr 2020 #1
Canoe52 Apr 2020 #2

Response to hatrack (Original post)

Sat Apr 11, 2020, 11:28 AM

1. Very cool. Thanks hatrack.

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Response to hatrack (Original post)

Sat Apr 11, 2020, 12:28 PM

2. Fascinating, first time hearing about this tree. Thanks!

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