What is a Bleeding Tree?

bleeding tree

The Socotra Dragon Tree, also known as Dracaena Cinnabari, is found in the Dragonsblood Forest of Socotra Island, which belongs to the nation of Yemen. It is located along the southern tip of the Middle East’s peninsula and is considered a small tree as they stand as tall as thirty feet. This species of tree earned its nickname, bleeding tree, due to the red-colored sap that comes from it. On the island, the location of these trees is within the remnants of its prehistoric forest, titled Dragonsblood, which is situated on the rocky soil of granite mountains and limestone plateaus. While the Socotra dragon tree is known for the secretion of bleeding red sap, there are trees that don’t normally secrete red sap. When this occurs, this suggests such a tree sustained an injury called Gummosis.

Stone fruit trees that bleed red sap is doing so in response to an injury that has been caused either by bacteria or perennial canker. Such wounds can come about due to disease damage, environmental damage, insect infestation, and winter season-related damage. Gardening and landscaping incidents causing direct damage to the tree can also inflict a wound that may lead to gummosis. When gummosis occurs, the leaves will begin to turn yellow and there will be lesions growing alongside the tree’s bark. An amber-colored sap will also start oozing from the tree. Once the curly orange threads begin to grow along with the bark of the tree as fungal chains, this means the gummosis condition has advanced. When the leaves start to turn brown in color and drop, the seriousness of the disease ravaging the tree has reached a stage where the wood under the cankers is dying off. This may result in the tree’s branches, as well as its trunk, dying off. Should gummosis reach this far, the odds of the tree’s survival become slim. Should there be a suspicion such a tree has gummosis, the sooner treatment is applied to freeze the spread of the disease is applied the better. The best way to start this repair any drainage issues is by either adjusting the soil or transplanting the tree. Anything you find that appears darkened or diseased should be stripped off. For added measure, also strip off a layer of healthy bark as this may be the insurance policy needed to ensure gummosis no longer poses a threat to the tree.

About Socotra Dragon Trees

When fully grown, a Socotra Dragon Tree looks like a giant umbrella as the densely packed crown of the tree’s top shares the shape of an upright, opened umbrella. This evergreen species of the tree got its bleeding tree nickname due to the secretion of what looks like “dragon’s blood” among fanciers of mythology. Unlike most monocot plants, the Dracaena displays a second growth, which is the result of a cell division in the meristems that causes the tree’s roots to thicken. This is why one sees the trunk of the tree typically sport a “Y” shape, seeming to hold up the umbrella dome of the grass-like foliage coming from the tree’s top. The Socotra dragon tree is a fruit tree, which are little berries that can contain anywhere from one to four seeds within. Each berry starts out green, then turns to black, and then becomes orange once they ripen. It takes five months for these berries to fully mature. When birds eat these berries off the tree, the resin of the fruit within is dispersed, which earns its description as dragon’s blood.

The tree itself, much like palm trees, grows from the tip of the stem and produces long, stiff leaves. These leaves are born from the dense rosettes at the end. When each leaf branches to maturity, together they develop the umbrella crown that sports along the top of each mature tree. During the month of March, the Socotra dragon tree produces flowers while under normal conditions. The tree’s inflorescences produce small clusters of fragrant green and white flowers. As an adaptation for survival, the Socotra dragon tree, the unusual shape it has undertaken is common in areas that have limited amounts of soil to work with. Much like the trees grown on mountaintops, these desert-dwelling bleeding trees form the shape they do as a means to offer shade to ensure the survival of the seedlings continues to grow underneath the mature tree. This is why the forest layout as these trees grow closely together. In 1835, the East India Company named this D cinnabari classed tree Pterocarpus Draco, but it was renamed Dracaena Cinnabari in 1880 by Isaac Bayley Balfour, a botanist of Scottish origin. Of the sixty to hundred Dracaena species of plants, the Dracaena cinnabari is only one of six to be classified as a tree. It is believed the Socotra dragon tree was originally derived from the Tethyan flora as a remnant of the Milo-Pliocene Laurasian sub-tropical forests that are now nearly extinct due to North Africa’s extensive desertification.

About Bloodwood Trees

Bloodwood trees are wild teak trees that feature a dark red sap that drips down the trunk. This liquid is created by tannins, which is the same ingredient used in a wine. Bloodwood is not really an actual species of tree, but rather a nickname for the wild teak trees that emit the red sap when it is going into healing mode from sustaining an injury that needs to have its wounds sealed up. Just like human blood, the red sap coagulates and seals open wounds. These wild teak trees (aka bloodwood trees) are located in South Africa, where many tribes within the area believe have magical properties. It is believed the red sap increases a breastfeeding woman’s milk supply, as well as treats diseases such as malaria. Ringworm and sharp pain also receive treatment from the medical applications used from the blood of these trees.

There are also a number of unrelated trees that have also adopted the bloodwood nickname that is located in other regions as they are each known for emitting red-colored sap. For starters, Baloghia inophyllia trees, are located in the rainforest of Eastern Australia. They’re also known as brush bloodwood, and are medium-sized, standing as tall as eighty-two feet from the ground and with a trunk diameter size of twenty inches. Also in Australia, primarily in the sub-tropical rainforests, are the rare Baloghia marmorata trees, which are also referred to as marbled bloodwood trees. They normally stand just under thirty feet in the air once fully matured. The Australian-based Corymbia species of trees, namely the gummifera (red bloodwood), intermedia (pink bloodwood), ptychocarpa (spring and swamp bloodwood), opaca (desert bloodwood), and eximia (yellow bloodwood). The Casuarina equisetifolia, which is more commonly referred to as the whistling pine tree, and is native to Australia and many Southeast Asia nations. These bleeding trees can also be found in Madagascar, although it is believed it was transplanted to that location. Other nations, such as Brazil, India, South Africa, and the southern USA also have these trees now growing in regions that are compatible enough with this she-oak tree species. In Central and South America, their bleeding, bloodwood tree is called Brosimum rubescens, which can grow as tall as 150 feet within its tropical habitat. Also in Central America, as well as USA’s south, the Cyrilla racemiflora is another bloodwood tree known for its bleeding sap properties. Haematoxylium campechianum, another bloodwood tree, is also grown in the Central America region, while the Gordonia haematoxylium seems to be a strictly Jamaican-rooted bleeding tree.

The purple-flowering Lagerstroemia speciosa, otherwise known as Indian bloodwood, is yet another bleeding tree. This one is located within the tropics of southern Asia and its seeds are well known for their narcotic properties. The young leaves are consumed as vegetation while the older leaves are used for medicinal purposes. The bleeding sap from these trees is also used in medicine, primarily to lower glucose levels found in the bloodstream. The Pterocarpus trees, all located within the continents of Africa and Asia, are the bleeding trees that yield red exudate, which later harden into crimson tears. This is the same stuff that’s used in Kino, which is a botanical gum. It’s also used as Dragon’s Blood, which typically becomes a powdered substance used in a variety of products such as dye, incense, medicine, and varnish. There are several sub-species coming from the Pterocarpus genus that all share the bleeding tree characteristics. Each of them is named differently and not always as bloodwood trees. Wineries that feature orchids of bloodwood trees practice due diligence to ensure none of their trees develop gummosis as this can be a catastrophic condition to their business. Even tree growers who aren’t in the business of growing wine that wishes to keep their bloodwood trees healthy will first make sure the region’s hardiness matches the tree’s ability to survive in such an environment with the least amount of canker-related threats as possible. Well-drained soil that is free from wind is the most ideal location for these wild teak trees. It is also recommended for the first three years of a tree’s life that its trunk be painted with latex paint, preferably one that has been certified eco-friendly.

Bleeding Tree Uses

The bleeding sap from the Socotra dragon tree has been used as a stimulant. It also has abortifacient, which is the substance used to induce abortion. The tree roots yield a gummy resin that is used in gargle water as a stimulant, astringent, and toothpaste. The leaves are used to treat carminative gastrointestinal tract issues, and the roots are used to treat rheumatism. When harvested, the dragon’s blood from the Socotra dragon tree has been a highly prized commodity that has its heritage dating as far back as an ancient civilization. The red resin makes an ideal dye for products such as ornaments, pottery, and woven fabrics. It’s also found in cosmetics such as lipstick. The medicinal properties that come from the red resin of these trees have also been used in various oral products such as breath freshener, gum, and toothpaste. Among people who believe in mythological tales revolving around dragons, the sap from the bleeding tree is used in alchemic and ritualistic practices that have its origins date as far back as Medieval and Renaissance times. Socotra’s island locals regard the sap from the bleeding Socotra dragon tree as a cure-all to every ailment. During the timeline of ancient civilizations such as the Arabians, Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans, these cultures used the dragon’s blood to treat diarrhea, dysentery diseases, fevers, infections, and ulcers.

Conservation

While most of the ecological environment housing the Socotra dragon tree is still mostly intact, the increasing human presence of a growing population, plus tourism, poses a threat to its continual survival. Between infrastructure development, logging, overgrazing, and woodcutting, the Socotra dragon trees have become fragmented. Although still widespread for the most part, the regeneration process for these species of plants has been compromised. It is suspected by the year 2080 there will be half the amount of Socotra dragon trees left as their native habitats continually face challenges in areas such as air quality, animal displacement, and pollution. As a result, conservation efforts are in place to ensure the survival of these trees. There has been a number of regulations put into place to prevent over-commercialization by global markets. There have also been safety measures such as fencing, land protection affidavits, and a number of government-issued regulations as a means to not just protect the Socotra dragon trees from extinction, but improve upon the regeneration process that has been seeing a decline for well over a hundred years. All trees, regardless if it the Socotra dragon tree or the bloodwood trees, need regular care and maintenance in order to maintain optimal health. Just like bloodwood trees, Socotra dragon trees can also suffer from gummosis.

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