Dracaena reflexa var. angustifolia

song of India


Dracaena reflexa var. angustifolia

Baker 1875

pronounced: dra-KEE-unh re-FLEX-uh variety an-guss-tih-FOH-lee-uh

(Asparagaceae — the asparagus family)

synonym — Dracaena marginata

Lam. 1786

pronounced: dra-KEE-nuh mar-jin-AH-tuh

common name: song of India

This plant is sometimes classified in Agavaceae, and sometimes put in its own family, called Dracænaceae. Dracaena is Latin for a she-dragon; reflexa is from reflexus, bent backwards, and angustifolia from angustus, narrow, and folium a leaf. In the synonym, which is used in horticulture, marginata is from marginatus, having a margin.

This is a small tree or evergreen shrub native to Mauritius, Madagascar and Réunion, which can reach up to 5 m in height. It will grow as a multi-stemmed shrub, or as a small tree pruned to a short trunk. The plant photographed is a fine specimen growing by the roadside in Cook Road, Arcadia, and is one of several variegated cultivars of the variety.

The rich glossy green, simple, arching leaves spiral the upright stems for their full length. The leaves, typically 30 – 90 cm long by 2 – 7 cm broad, are linear to lanceolate, tapering to an acuminate point, with entire margins and parallel venation.

Magenta salverform flowers are often produced on mature plants; they are produced in large panicles, the flowers opening from the bottom up, with the tip of the stem continuing to grow and produce more flowers.

The fruits are about 1 cm in diameter, green then orange then red.

This is a handsome and durable plant that does well in partial shade and in reasonably well-drained soil. It will also do well in quite a large container, and may be grown indoors. When grown indoors, the plant is an air purifier, removing formaldehyde, xylene and trichlorethylene. If growth becomes sparse, it may be pruned back quite severely – it regenerates quickly. Potted plants need watering when the top of the soil in the pot is dry to the touch. In the ground, watering may be required in prolonged dry spells.


Photographs taken in Arcadia 2014
Page last updated 15th December 2018