Yemen’s dragon tree – it’s in your nature

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The Socotra dragon tree grows only on the Yemeni island of Socotra. An extraordinary tree, threatened with extinction by drought, cyclones and livestock. Freelance journalist Quentin Müller, the author of the first text of an original magazine published in France, has chosen to tell his story. Disappearance.

Socotra is a dream island in the Indian Ocean, off Yemen and Oman, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008 because of its landscapes and unique biodiversity. Socotra is home to a tree that only grows on this island, an almost magical tree with an already magical name: the dragon tree.

Journalist Quentin Müller, a specialist in Yemen, waited six years before being able to set foot in Socotra and finally see this dragon tree. A journey he describes in the first letter published by Disappearance, a French bimonthly available only by subscription, to reconnect with the epistolary tradition, by sending by mail a letter devoted to an ongoing disappearance on the planet.

« It was a huge emotion for me, says Quentin Müller when he remembers his first encounter with a dragon tree from Socotra. I asked the driver to stop, and I just wanted to touch the bark, the sprawling branches which is totally incredible. I had never seen this on another tree. It’s a bit of a mushroom tree, it’s a UFO. It is another living being. You say to yourself : I’m on another planet, really. »

The dragon tree contains 80% water

Dracaena cinnabari is an astonishing tree, and not only because of its blood-red sap, used since Antiquity as a pigment and in traditional medicine, and collected only once a year. A tree that we only see today in Socotra, whereas it populated the forests of Europe 20 million years ago. In the genre Dracaena, he has only one little brother with similar characteristics, Dracaena draco, the Canary Islands dragon tree, in the Atlantic.

The leaves of the dragon tree grow only at the end of the youngest branches, and form like a parasol – and here the sun is blazing. A parasol carried, at arm’s length, by the oldest branches. Inside: 80% water. To withstand drought, the tree fills up during monsoons, but they are increasingly rare with climate change, as storms and cyclones multiply. ” To give you an idea, Socotra was hit on average by one cyclone every twenty years. ; in 2015 there were two ! »Who left traces: thousands of dragon trees were slaughtered.

« When we go to the Dixam plateau, continues Quentin Müller, the first thing we see are obviously standing trees, but also trees on the ground, and that’s sad. We went to a sort of cemetery of dragon trees, and there are plenty of them on the ground. A disaster for a very slow growing tree, which takes 100 years to become an adult. The oldest on the island, and the most beautiful, are even over 1,000 years old.

A biodiversity refuge

Threatened by global warming, drought and cyclones, the Socotra dragon tree is also attacked by goats! ” The small farmers let their goats graze all over the mountain, and they graze anything, anything they can, and in particular the shoots of small dragon trees, specifies Quentin Müller. And we cannot ask these people to stop this because they would lose their income. »

A dilemma that defenders of the environment frequently encounter: how to reconcile the protection of nature and the survival of humans … In Socotra, the population is well aware of the treasure that their island shelters and a nursery has been created, a nursery. dragon trees to repopulate the forest.

The disappearance of the dragon tree would be a disaster for the biodiversity of the island, which is home to more than 800 endemic species. ” For example, there is a lizard that lives only in the bark of the tree. There are also birds that nest in the dragon tree and feed on its fruit. It is also the only tree on the island capable of producing shade, capturing horizontal precipitation, water in clouds and air, and keeping it in its foliage. So that makes it a very important species for the balance of the Socotian fauna and flora. », Concludes Quentin Müller. You are missing only one tree, and everything is depopulated.

“Is Leonardo DiCaprio a beautiful plant?” “

Yes, most definitely … and Uvariopsis dicaprio he is a beautiful tree that only grows in the rainforest of Ebo, Cameroon. Discovered recently, it has just been named after the actor of Titanic, who was committed to the defense of the forest of Ebo. Scientists who discover a new species are free to give whatever name they want to their discovery, after the name of the genus to which the plant or animal belongs. Thus, a beetle from Costa Rica is called Agra schwarzeneggeri because its paws are reminiscent of the muscular little arms of Arnold Schwarzenegger. Hitler, too, gave his name to a beetle discovered in the 1930s, Anophthalmus hitleri, today threatened because he is poached by neo-Nazis …


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