Socotra Island Desert
About the Area
Socotra houses many unusual plants, including the Socotran pomegranate (Punica protopunica) and the Cucumber tree (Dendrosicyos) - the only representative of Cucurbitaceae known to grow as a tree. For centuries the island has been noted for its aloes as well as "dragon's blood" - a brilliant red resin extracted from the endemic Dragon tree (Dracaena cinnabari).
The island is also home to nine endemic plant genera, including Ballochia, Trichocalyx, Duvaliandra, Socotranthus, Haya, Lachnocapsa, Dendrosicyos, Placoda, and Nirarathamnos. Selected animal species include the Socotra leaf-toed gecko (Hemidactylus forbesii), Guichard's rock gecko (Pristurus guichardi), Blanford's rock gecko (P. insignis), and Socotra rock gecko (P. sokotranus).
The island is also home to six endemic bird species, including Island cisticola (Cisticola haesitatus) and Socotra bunting (Emberiza socotrana).
A long history of settlement has given people ample time to degrade much of the habitat. Overgrazing by goats, fuelwood cutting, and potential new development projects threaten the native biota.
3,800 sq. km (1,500 sq. miles)
Deserts and Xeric Shrublands
Island off the northeast coast of Africa (the Horn of Africa)
Why is the dragon tree so called?
This tree has been known around the world at least as long as people have believed in dragons. When the dragon's blood tree is cut down or one of its branches breaks off, it "bleeds" a dark red resin. Early Greek, Roman, and Arab civilisations believed that this liquid had medical benefits, and in the 1700s Italians used it to stain wood used in making violins. Today, dragon's blood is still sometimes used in special photographic processes.