I took a holiday to Europe two years ago (April 2008) and left colleague Bernard Carlon in charge of the Botanic Gardens for a couple of months. He did a wonderful job except for one small thing. He allowed our most impressive Dragon Blood Trees to fall over.
It's a bit unfair to blame Bernard. It was more likley due to the long drought followed by heavy rain and some extra growth on one side of the tree. However it's fun to tease Bernard about the tree.
More importantly, though, there was a tough decision to make at the time - leave it lopsided or staighten it up. After plenty of expert and not-so-expert advice we (Bernard) decided to leave it in its fallen position. Better that we keep what connections it has with its roots in place rather than risk breaking more of them by straightening up the trunk.
So there it has sat, for the last two years. It's looked OK but hasn't put on any new growth. In the last few weeks, however, it's started to look a little sad. The leaves have curled up a little - that look succulents have when you know something is wrong.
We are watching it closely but it may be in its last months. That said, when I took a photos of it this week, I found a new shoot (see picture at end of blog) that might just be sign things are turning. We'll keep watching and waiting for a while longer.
We have a few Dragon Blood Trees in the Royal Botanic Gardens, including another of about the same age in the flying fox damaged Palm Grove. They have become one of our iconic trees, like the Moreton Bay Fig and the Bottle Tree.
I like Dragon Blood Trees because of their distinctive architecture and because they have exotic native homes. Along with Frankinscense, Myrrh and some drought resistant begonias, one of the best known species of Dragon Blood Tree lives on the island of Socotra, off the east coast of Africa.
On this island of 3,600 square km – smaller than Kangaroo Island in South Australia – nearly one-third of the 800 or so plant species are not found anywhere else in the world.
The island sits on a latitude similar to that of Darwin, and although it has a summer and winter monsoon season, rainfall is sporadic across the island. It is most famous for the swollen-trunked Dragon Tree or Dragon Blood Tree.
The ‘blood’ is formed by fungal infection of dead parts of tree and has been used as medicine for thousands of years. Arabian Dragon’s Blood is the most commonly used in medicine, and it comes from Dracaena cinnabari, the species native to Socotra.