Plant of the month

Common Names: Dragon Tree

Scientific Name: Dracaena draco (L.) L.

Family: Asparagaceae

Etymology

Genus: Dracaena – from the Ancient Greek word, Drakaina, meaning ‘female dragon’.

Species: draco – Latin for dragon; species name may also refer to English sailor Sir Francis Drake, commonly referred to as ‘The Dragon.

Distribution

Canary Islands (Tenerife and Gran Canaria), Madeira, Cape Verde Islands. Listed as Endangered by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature). A subspecies ajgal occurs in the southwest Atlas Mountains of Morocco.

Native Habitat

Dry forests on rocky slopes and cliffs.

Description

An arborescent (tree-like) monocot to 15 m tall with an umbrella-like symmetrical canopy and stiff blue-green leaves. 

Flowers and Fruit

Plants usually begin flowering after 10–20 years. Flowering occurs at the apex of each stem, that terminates after flowering and produces a whorl of stout new branches creating the distinctive symmetrical crown. Small white flowers are followed by a small orange berry.

Location in Garden

Palm Grove, Dragon Tree Lawn and Lawn 60 near sea wall.

Information

A tree of myth and legend, associated with ancient writers and mariners who brought tales to Europe of the magical qualities of the blood-like resin and ancient gigantean plants. Although reputedly used as a love potion the resin, produced from wounds or fungal infections, was traded from the 15th century for use as a polish especially for violins.

An ancient specimen on Tenerife, 21 m tall and 14m wide was thought to be thousands of years old when it blew over in 1868. However, botanists now estimate the maximum lifespan these plants can reach is 600 years and the oldest living specimen, also from Tenerife, is thought to be between 300 and 350 years old. 

Our oldest specimen was planted in the 1860s in the Palm Grove. Another tree planted in the 1880s near the sea wall fell over in 2008 but has survived and is still growing. Recently many of our younger ‘Dragons’ have gathered together on the Dragon Tree Lawn near our Vista Pavilion where other beautiful and distinctive Canary Island plants surround them.  

Must See in the Garden

Recommended by the volunteers

Download the Must See in the Garden to enjoy a self guided walk around the Garden. Created by our volunteers each month with seasonal highlights in mind.

Or simply visit the Information Booth at the Garden Shop at 10.30 am everyday and 1pm weekdays for a free guided walk!

Each month, our amazing volunteer guides at The Royal Botanic Garden Sydney put together the highlights of the Garden to create the Must See walk including the Plant of the Month and other interesting stops along the way.

Share your best photos of a Must See highlight using #MustSeeRBG and #RBGSydney and you could win Oktoberfest tickets on Saturday 28 October. More information about Oktoberfest in the Garden. The promotion opens at 1 pm AEST on Monday 9 October and closes 5 pm AEST on Monday 23 October. T&C