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Dracaena reflexa var. reflexa unknown
pronounced: dra-KEE-nuh re-FLEX-uh variety re-FLEX-uh
(Asparagaceae – the asparagus family)
synonym: Dracaena cincta Baker 1875
pronounced: dra-KEE-nuh KINK-tuh
common name: Red-edged dracaena
In the 11th labour of Hercules, he had to bring back three apples from the garden of the Hesperides, which was guarded by Landon, the hundred-headed dragon. Hercules killed Landon, and his blood flowed out over the land, and up sprouted Dragon Trees. Some species of Dracaena, particularly Dracaena draco , when the stem is cut, produce a bright red resin resembling blood, which was used in medicines, alchemy and magic potions in Roman and up to mediaeval times. The ancient Egyptians also used ‘dragons blood’ for embalming. The resin is still used today to produce a unique red lustre varnish used in the varnishing of violins and other stringed instruments.
Almost everywhere you go on Magnetic Island, these exotic-looking red-edged dracaenae can be seen, usually growing in pots adorning patios and courtyards. Their use as sculptural feature plants is comparatively recent.
Dracaena is a genus of about 40 species of trees and succulent shrubs, the majority of which are native to Africa, with a few in southern Asia, and one in Central America. There is a great variation in the leaf shape and colouring, and in the flowers of those species that produce them. Many species make good house plants. There are so many of these available that it would be possible to fill a house with Dracaena and make it look as if you were using plants from many differing families. Most of the species do not look anything alike, but each member makes a bold statement, commanding attention with its unique form. They are much used in the ‘rent-a-plant’ industry that supplies indoor plants for offices and shops. The constant heat and light suits their growing requirements. There are quite a few cultivars available.
Dracaena reflexa var. reflexa boasts striking rosettes of long, narrow leaves with red margins, on slender, interesting trunks. The plants are robust, and require little attention. They need a minimum temperature of about 15ºC, and are more tolerant than most plants of irregular watering and dry soil, though liable to root decay in permanently wet soil. The growing heads like to be upright, and the stems often take on surreal shapes as they try to grow to the upright position. By selecting cuttings that have interesting shapes, and planting them at an angle in the soil, it is possible to influence this propensity.
Some species do not like fluoride, and so are best watered with rain water. The health of Dracaena can be gauged by the amount of leaf drop, and by excessive tip burn. Some leaf falling is normal, but too much indicates that there is something going on that the plants do not like – perhaps excessive fertilizer, or fluoride in the water. They prefer not to be in direct sunlight for the whole day – indirect or bright-diffused light is best.
Photographs taken in Picnic Bay 2008
Page last updated 15th November 2016