Calamus Draco is a small palm growing in the islands of the Indian archipelago. While the plants are young the trunk is erect, and resembles an elegant, slender palm tree, armed with innumerable dark-colored, flattened elastic spines, often disposed in oblique rows, with their bases united. By age they become scandent, and overrun trees to a great extent. The leaves are pinnate, their sheaths in petioles armed as above described; leaflets single, alternate, ensiform, margins remotely armed with stiff, slender bristles, as are also the ribs; 12 to 18 inches long and about 3/4 inch broad. The spadix of the female is hermaphrodite and inserted by means of a short, armed petiole on the mouth of the sheath opposite to the leaf, and is oblong and decompound, resembling a common oblong panicle. Spathes several, one to each of the 4 or 5 primary ramifications of the spadix, lanceolate and leathery; all smooth except the exterior or lower one, which is armed on the outside. Calyx turbinate, ribbed, mouth 3-toothed, by the swelling of the ovary split into 3 portions, and in this manner adhering, together with the corolla, to the ripe berries. Corolla 3-cleft; divisions ovate-lanceolate, twice as long as the calyx, and permanent. Filaments 6, very broad, and inserted into the base of the corolla. Anthers filiform, and seemingly abortive. Ovary oval; style short; stigmas 3-cleft; divisions revolute and glandular on the inside. The berry is round, pointed, and of the size of a cherry (L.—Roxb.).

History and Description - Dragon's blood is a dark-red substance, which is imported from the East Indies, and which is procured from the berries of the Calamus Draco, by rubbing or agitating them in a bag, softening by heat the resinous exudation obtained, and making this up into masses. An inferior grade is obtained by boiling the crushed fruits in water (Pharmacographia). There are several sorts of it, one (Red dragon's blood), occurring in dark reddish-brown sticks, a foot or more in length, and from 3 to 6 lines in diameter, enveloped with palm leaves, and bound with narrow slips of cane; another occurs in reddish-brown lumps of the size and shape of an olive, also covered with leaves in a moniliform row; another, of very fine quality, is a reddish powder; a fourth occurs in large, irregular pieces or tears, while an inferior kind is in very large masses or lumps, Lump dragon's blood, presenting a heterogeneous fracture (P.). Dragon's blood is brittle, feebly sweetish, or almost tasteless, and odorless. It is not acted upon by water, but is almost all dissolved by alcohol, wood alcohol and ether, only impurities being left undissolved; partly soluble in chloroform and benzene. It fuses by heat, and emits a benzoic-acid-like fume on burning. Its solution stains marble a fine deep-red color.

Dracaena is a genus of about 40 species of trees and succulent shrubs classified in the family Ruscaceae in the APG II system, or, according to some treatments, separated (with Cordyline) into a family of their own, Dracaenaceae or in the Agavaceae. The majority of the species are native in Africa and nearby islands, with a few in southern Asia and one in tropical Central America. The segregate genus Pleomele is now generally included in Dracaena. The genus Sanseviera is closely related, and has recently been synonymized under Dracaena in the Kubitzki system.

Dracaena have a secondary thickening meristem in their trunk. This monocotyledonous secondary thickening meristem is quite different to the thickening meristem found in dicotyledonous plants and is termed Dracaenoid thickening by some authors. This character is shared with other members of the Agavaceae and Xanthorrhoeaceae among other related families.


They can be divided into two groups based on their growth habits:

  1. A group of tree-size species with stout trunks and stiff, broad-based leaves, growing in arid semi-desert areas, and known as dragon trees.
  2. A group of smaller, shrubby species with slender stems and flexible strap-shaped leaves, growing as understorey plants in rainforests (and very popular as houseplants), and known collectively as shrubby dracaenas.
Dragon trees
Shrubby dracaenas
  • Synonym: Dracaena deremensis

Several other species previously included in Dracaena are now treated in the genus Cordyline.

Uses - A bright red resin, dragon's blood, is produced from D. draco and, in ancient times, from D. cinnabari. Some species such as D. deremnsis, D. fragrans, D. godseffiana, D. marginata, and D. sanderiana are popular as houseplants. Rooted stem cuttings of D. sanderiana are widely marketed in the U.S.A. as "Lucky Bamboo", although only superficially resembling true bamboos. Dragon's Blood - a resinous incrustation obtained from the scaly covering of the fruits of Daemonorops propinquus, a climbing palm of the Rattan family (q.v.), collected chiefly in Borneo, Sumatra, Malaya, etc. The small, round fruits, about ¾ in. diameter., are dried, then shaken in a basket, through which the resin falls; it is collected on a cloth damped in hot water, and pressed into moulds. "Singapore Lump " dragon's blood is now quoted at about £27 per cwt. Similar substances, known by the name of Dragon's Blood, are obtained from Dracaena Draco in the Canary Islands, Dracaena Cinnabari in Socotra and Zanzibar, and Croton Draco in Mexico. The chief use of the product is for colouring varnishes.

Chemical Composition - Dragon's blood to consist chiefly of a red resin (90.7 per cent) which is called draconin and contains benzoic acid. Dragon's blood fused with caustic potash obtained benzoic, para-oxy-benzoic, oxalic and probably protocatechuic acids. E. Genuine dragon's blood is used in the production of solvents and reagents.

Red Resins Known as Dragon's Blood


Besides the red resins from Pterocarpus Draco and Croton Draco, there are three different recognized kinds of dragon's blood, one from the East Indies, Calamus Draco; one from Socotra, and one from the Canary Islands, Dracaena Draco. The first of these is the only one that has been fully described, but the results are not concordant; this is due apparently to the researches having been carried out on different substances. The authors have now investigated this subject, and have examined several varieties of the so-called dragon's blood, which they find can be arranged in four distinct groups:

  1. Those which dissolve completely in chloroform, carbon bisulphide, and benzene;
  2. Those soluble in chloroform, but insoluble in carbon bisulphide and benzene;
  3. Those soluble in chloroform and benzene, and partly in carbon bisulphide; and
  4. Those which are insoluble in all three reagents.

The accuracy of this classification is supported by the physical properties of the resins and their behavior towards reagents, and it is evident, therefore, that there were four different kinds of resins under examination. All the resins dissolve to a small extent in boiling water, those of Class 4 being rather more soluble than the others; they are all freely soluble in alcohol, ether, oil of cloves, and glacial acetic acid, leaving a variable amount of insoluble matter, which usually consists of vegetable tissue, sand, etc. They are all slightly soluble also in hydrochloric acid, those of Class 2 being the most soluble; ammonia reprecipitates them from this solution. The aqueous and alcoholic solutions have an acid reaction. When treated with sodium hydroxide, the resins effervesce and emit an odor like that of rhubarb. Ammonia forms a clear mixture with the alcoholic solutions. The resins were carefully purified by means of ether, and then powdered; the results of the individual class examinations may be thus summed up:

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