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Dragon Tree: Dracaena Cambodiana

Sitajakhala

India’s first dragon tree species Dracaena cambodiana was found in the Dongka Sarpo area of West Karbi Anglong in Assam. This is the first time that this species is found in India. A trio of researchers led by Jatindra Sarma, an Assam forest officer, has discovered Dracaena cambodiana, a dragon tree species, in the State. Mr. Jatindra Sarma said that they had found the dragon tree species on a hilly rock crevice. It took them four years of fieldwork and study to classify the plant as a dragon tree species whose sap turns bright red after coming in contact with air. The research has been published in the Journal of Botanical Research Institute of Texas. This is a very important medicinal plant and also an ornamental tree. This plant is called dragon’s blood as its sap turns bright red when it comes in contact with air. Dracaena cambodiana’s resin is used since ages as body oil, medicine, varnish, incense and dye. Other than dragon’s blood several antifungal and antibacterial compounds, antioxidants, flavonoids etc., have been extracted from various parts of this plant. Dracaena belongs to Asparagaceae family is represented by 9 species and 2 varieties in the Himalayan region, the Northeast and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Among all these Dracaena cambodiana is the only true dragon tree species.

Dracaena seeds are usually dispersed by birds. But due to large fruit size, only a few species of birds are able to swallow fruits, thereby limiting scope of its natural conservation. Population size of dragon tree species in Assam is estimated to be less than 50 mature individual trees and there is continuing decrease in its area of occupancy and number of mature plants. This is because habitat of plant is extensively fragmented due to open excavation of stone quarry. The dragon’s blood is a traditional medicine used mainly in China. To meet increasing demand for dragon’s blood the recent exploitation has resulted in rapid depletion of the plant. Therefore, this plant species is already listed in inventory of rare and endangered plants of China. We are really fortunate enough as India’s first dragon tree species got first discovered in Assam. In view of its medicinal, ornamental and ecological values there is an urgent need for awareness programmes for the conservation and flourish of Dracaena cambodiana in Assam and also undertake research to explore its benefits for society at large.

Sukalpa Dhar

Guwahati

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