"The Dragon's Blood Tree" Top 5 Page for this destination Yemen Off The Beaten Path Tip by traveldave

Yemen Off The Beaten Path: 20 reviews and 19 photos


The umbrella-shaped dragon's blood tree is endemic to Socotra, meaning it is found nowhere else in the world. It is an iconic symbol of Socotra, and is one of the most photographed features of the island. The tree is unique, and is probably distantly related to the baobabs of Africa and Madagascar. (There are other "dragon's blood trees" native to the Cape Verde and Canary islands, but they are of a different species).

The dragon's blood tree gets its name from the red resin obtained from small cuts in its trunk and branches. The resin was harvested in ancient times, as it was believed to have medicinal properties, and was used to make red dye. The resin was traded to the Arabs and ancient Mediterranean civilizations via the Incense Road, along with frankincense and myrrh.

The ancient Greeks, Romans, and Arabs used the dragon's blood resin as a cure-all for such ailments as diarrhea, fever, dysentery, respiratory and stomach viruses, and ulcers of the mouth, throat, stomach, and intestines.

The resin was also used to make a deep red dye, as well as varnish by eighteenth-century violin makers. An eighteenth-century recipe for toothpaste even called for dragon's blood resin.

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  • Updated Apr 1, 2008
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