What is characteristic of the nature of Socotra is its uniqueness, which resulted from the island’s long isolation from the mainland. Botanically, the Socotra islands are the tenth most bountiful islands in the world. This is also due to the large number of endemic species found on the island. Socotra offers 825 of known plants, out of which 37% are endemic.
Dragon’s blood tree (Dracaena cinnabari) – These unique and fascinating trees date back to the Mesozoic Era. They are the backbone of one of the oldest ecosystems on the Earth. The aborigines call them dam alichvajn (two brothers’ blood).
The tree was named after the red sap it produces. It is a rather strange-looking umbrella-shaped tree, which usually reaches between 6 and 9 metres in height.
There are approximately 900 000 dragon’s blood trees on the island, which is around 40% of its total population. They have been around for quite a time and date back to the age of dinosaurs. The trees that can be now found on Socotra are a few hundred years old and there is, unfortunately, no new population growing. The red sap from the tree, i.e. dragon’s blood, was used as a cure for inflammation, as an antiseptic, in the preparation of colours and later for colouring of violins.
Olibanum tree (Boswellia Sacra) – Olibanum-trees are rare species, which reach between 2 and 8 metres in height. Frankincense, the valuable sap producing pleasant smell, is extracted by making a shallow incision on the bark, trunk or branches of the tree. When harvested, the sap has the form of a milky substance which, after drying, turns into light yellow, brown or translucent grains. The strong, pleasant smell appears when these grains are heated up. Lastly, the frankincense essential oil, which is used in aromatherapy, is obtained by steam distillation. The sap has traditionally been regarded as a universal cure and it was used by healers in the past due to its antiseptic qualities. Later, the frankincense trade became a very lucrative business. The substance was so valuable that it was balanced with gold. It was also used by the Egyptians during mummification.