The charismatic dragon tree earned its name from Greek mythology. In Hercules’ 11th labour, he was to bring back three golden apples from the garden of the Hespérides, which was guarded by the hundred-headed dragon, Landon. Slaying the dragon caused red blood to flow out over the land, from which ‘dragon’ trees began to sprout.
Young trees grow a single, slender stem, topped with a crown of prickly, sword-shaped leaves. The dragon tree grows extremely slowly, reaching around 1.2 metres after a decade. At this time, the first greenish-white perfumed flowers appear. Sweet-tasting orange berries – slightly smaller than a cherry, and covered in a red, resinous substance – follow soon after. A crown of buds then sprouts and forms new branches. This adaptive growth pattern repeats every 10-15 years or so, resulting in the tree’s densely-branched, umbrella-like appearance.
Cutting the bark or leaves of the dragon tree exposes a red sap, known as dragon’s blood. This substance is used in traditional medicines against aches and pains.