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Dracaena jayniana (red dragon tree)

Dracaena jayniana is an endangered dragon tree from Thailand, the dried red sap of which is used to make a tonic drink.

Dracaena jayniana on a rocky area

Dracaena jayniana on limestone karst

Species information

Scientific name: 

Dracaena jayniana Wilkin & Suksathan

Common name: 

red dragon tree (English); Chan daeng (Thailand)

Conservation status: 

Endangered according to IUCN Red List criteria (preliminary assessment).

Habitat: 

Limestone karsts; usually on hilltops rather than steep cliff sides.

Key Uses: 

Tonic drink, ornamental.

Known hazards: 

None known.

Taxonomy

Subclass: 
Superorder: 
Lilianae
Order: 
Asparagales
Family: 
Asparagaceae
Genus: Dracaena

About this species

Dracaena jayniana was recently identified as a new species by a team including Kew botanist Paul Wilkin and collaborators in Thailand, the Netherlands and Poland. It is named in honour of Jayne Spasojevic in recognition of a charitable donation by her husband to a sponsored skydive in aid of Portfield School in Dorset, UK. The epithet also sounds like the Thai vernacular name Chan.

Dracaena jayniana is part of a group of species related to the Canary Islands dragon tree D. draco.

Genus: 
Dracaena

Discover more

Geography and distribution

Dracaena jayniana is restricted to central and northeastern Thailand. It is found on limestone karsts at 300–500 m above sea level, usually on hilltops rather than the steep cliff sides.

The inaccessible nature of this landscape coupled with its lack of soil and low water availability has helped protect it from agricultural development. It contains many rare and unusual species that are often restricted to karst limestone.

Dracaena jayniana flowers

Dracaena jayniana flowers (Photo: Kaweesak Keeratikiat)

Description

Overview: Woody stems up to 8 m tall, branched at the base, with usually 3–5 erect stems in a cluster. Stems bear leaf scars from the base to the apex. Bark pale brown to grey-brown with vertical fissures towards the base, peeling away on each side of fissure. Dark red sap oozes from damaged bark.

Extremely long, woody roots are produced that can reach down to the water table below the arid, rocky limestone habitat.

Leaves: Tough, leathery, pale green to white, in dense clusters at tips of stems. Leaf blades dark green, up to 75 cm long and 1.3 cm wide. All but the youngest leaves are curved near the base.

Flowers: Tepals (undifferentiated petals and sepals) dull golden yellow. Flowers borne on erect to ascending inflorescences with four levels of branching.

Fruits: A berry with up to three seeds, shiny olive-green when immature, probably dull red when mature (known to be red-black when dried), about 1 cm in diameter.

Seedlings: Leaves borne in two opposite rows on the stem (rather than forming a rosette).

Threats and conservation

Dracaena jayniana

Dracaena jayniana

Dracaena jayniana is considered to be Endangered according to IUCN Red List criteria (preliminary assessment). It is restricted to isolated limestone karst outcrops, resulting in a fragmented distribution. It is slow-growing and has poor fruit-set (relative to other species of Dracaena).

Mature plants are collected from the wild for use in horticulture. However, D. jayniana is less popular than other Dracaena species, and a number of populations are close to temples, which affords them some protection. It is collected by locals who consider it to bring good luck.

In Thailand, many limestone habitats are threatened by extraction for concrete manufacture, especially those closest to cities such as Bangkok.

Uses

Dracaena jayniana is cultivated as an ornamental in Thailand.

A tonic drink is made from the dried red sap.

This species at Kew

Pressed and dried specimens of Dracaena jayniana are held in Kew’s Herbarium where they are available to researchers by appointment.

References and credits

Wilkin, P., Suksathan, P., Keeratikiat, K., Van Welzen, P. & Wiland-Szymańska, J. (2012). A new threatened endemic species from central and northeastern Thailand, Dracaena jayniana (Asparagaceae: tribe Nolinoideae). Kew Bulletin 67: 697–705.

Kew Science Editor: Paul Wilkin
Copyediting: Emma Tredwell
Kew would like to thank the following contributors: Piyakaset Suksathan (Queen Sirikit Botanic Garden, Thailand), Kaweesak Keeratikiat (Bangkok, Thailand), Peter Van Welzen (Naturalis Biodiversity Center, The Netherlands) & Justyna Wiland-Szymańska (A. Mickiewicz University, Poland).

Although every effort has been taken to ensure that the information contained in these pages is reliable and complete, notes on hazards, edibility and suchlike included here are recorded information and do not constitute recommendations. No responsibility will be taken for readers’ own actions.

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