Dragon trees, Dracaena Marginata, Lucky Bamboo, and even Dracaena Cinnabari, as well as several other Dracaena species, are more closely related to the lily family than to palm trees even though the two are often confused. One thing that they all have in common is that when you cut the plant, it exudes a red sap. This sap is often called Dragon’s Blood.
Dragon’s Blood: Universal Panacea or a substance to be approached with caution?
The problem with dragon’s blood, which has been marketed down through the ages, is that there are a variety of substances that are known by that name. The Ancient Romans confused the sap from Dracaena Cinnabari with cinnabar, which is another name for mercury sulfide. Needless to say, this confusion could have fatal consequences for the unwary.
The ancient Chinese did not have quite the same confusion, but they marketed both the sap from Dracaena and Daemonorops as the same substance. Daemonorops is a palm that is used in making rattan, and not the same species of plant at all.
The true “dragon’s blood” was obtained from both Dracaena Draco and from Dracaena Cinnabari. The former is from the Canary Islands, the latter from Socotra. Even though the sap is definitely not from the blood of dead or dying dragons or elephants, as some of the ancient herbals claimed, this ruby red sap from the Dracaena plants has a long and interesting history as both a medicinal and as a practical botanical.
Don’t Try This at Home
The sap of Dracaena Cinnabari or Socotra had many uses in ancient times. Those long-ago physicians used it for everything from healing wounds to treating stomach aches. Officially, Web MD warns against using “dragon’s blood” internally or on wounds. Since there is still a great deal of confusion as to the possible source of something marketed as “dragon’s blood” it is inadvisable to use it medicinally.
Industrial and other Uses
One of the primary uses of dracaena sap or the juice from dracaena berries is as a varnish for violins and other fine wood working objects. The Chinese used it to color paper that was used at weddings and similar events. It is often used in incense and frequently called for in “New Age” shamanistic recipes.
Thaspine, a substance that can be extracted from dracaena sap is being examined scientifically to see if it might have possibilities as a treatment for cancer.
Lovely Tame Dragons in Your Living Room
One of the best uses of Dracaena is as a houseplant. It is a tough bit of vegetation and seems to thrive on a good bit of neglect. Depending upon which species of Dracaena you have on hand, it seems to be almost foolproof when it comes to growing it as a container plant.
It grows very slowly, dropping off lower leaves as it gets taller, and developing the distinctive long, snaky stems that end in a tufty top. You can make your “dragon” have two heads by trimming the top. It will then branch out into two heads, somewhat like the legendary hydra which was said to grow two heads every time you cut one off.
Dragon Trees in Modern Mythology
The idea of dragon trees so captures the imagination that there is even a game called “Dragon Merge” that features a fun artifact called a “dragon tree.”
From the teeth that Jason supposedly grew into warriors to a universal heal-all, to some very practical applications, the Dragon Tree has both mythological and practical aspects.
Perhaps one of the most prevalent modern legend about it is the idea that it will clean industrial exhalations from modern building materials that have outgassed into your home. Although one study suggested that it was a promising possibility, subsequent studies have not replicated the original.
Dragon Trees as Interior Design
There is one undisputed use for dragon trees and that is as a lovely plant that can be part of your interior design. Although they do need to be kept out of reach of pets, since they are poisonous to both dogs and cats, they are easy to grow. They stand up to a great deal of neglect, do not require much in the way of trimming or repotting, and come in an amazing array of varieties, including variegated leaf types and even different colors. So if you’ve always dreamed of having a dragon in your living room, then dracaena in one of its many different types is the perfect house plant for you.