Canary Island dragon tree
Canary Island dragon tree, drago (Eng); drago (Spa); drago de Canàries (Cat).
DID YOU KNOW...? The dragon tree appears in 'The Garden of Earthy Delights', the famous painting by Hieronymus Bosch.
Plant of tree-like form that reaches 20 m in height, although it is not woody. It is characterised by its aerial roots, which sometimes merge with the basal part of the thick, upright trunk, and its dichotomous branching (the branches are divided in two similar parts from the apex). This division only takes place after flowering. For this reason, any unbranching dragon trees have not yet reached sexual maturity, whereas older specimens usually have a very branching crown, in the shape of a fan. The almost smooth bark displays a mixture of colours including reds, greys, and even silver. The whitish-green leaves are simple, up to 60 cm in length, flat, pointed, leathery, flexible, and sword-shaped. They are grouped into very compact plumes at the ends of the trunk or branches. These leaves are joined to the plant with an orangey sheath and therefore have no stalk. During the summer, they are covered in large, branching inflorescences. These hold many flowers whose nectar and pollen attract bees. The flowers are hermaphroditic, creamy white in colour and sometimes pink hued. The fruits are fleshy, spherical berries, up to 1.5 cm in diameter and orange when ripe. They contain 1 or 2 seeds.
The Canary Islands dragon tree is a plant of the thermophilous forest, although it sometimes becomes established in the lower part of monteverde forest zone and may appear in association with the pine forest; this is the case of the dragon tree stand in Barranco de Badajoz (Tenerife). In its natural state, it usually survives in inaccessible places, such as out-of-the-way platforms and ledges on steep crags. In general, it prefers spots that receive the humid influence of the trade winds and other damp places. It tends to grow between altitudes of 100 and 700 m.
This species is endemic to Madeira, the Canary Islands, Cabo Verde and the Moroccan Anti-Atlas, where the subspecies ajgal grows. In the Canaries, it is found in El Hierro, La Palma, La Gomera, Tenerife and Gran Canaria, although some authors only consider it to be native to the central islands.