Dracaena draco 

Scope: Europe
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Plantae Tracheophyta Liliopsida Asparagales Asparagaceae

Scientific Name: Dracaena draco (L.) L.
Regional Assessments:
Common Name(s):
English Canary Island Dragon Tree, Dragon Tree
Spanish Drago De Canarias, Sangre De Drago
Asparagus draco L.
Palma draco (L.) Mill.
Yucca draco (L.) Carrière
Taxonomic Source(s): The Plant List. 2017. The Plant List. Version 1.1. Available at: http://www.theplantlist.org/.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Endangered B2ab(iii) (Regional assessment) ver 3.1
Year Published: 2017
Date Assessed: 2017-01-23
Assessor(s): Almeida Pérez, R.S. & Beech, E.
Reviewer(s): Reyes Betancort, J.A., Scholz, S., del Arco Aguilar, M. & Allen, D.J.
Contributor(s): Aguiar, C., Bañares Baudet, A., Almeida Pérez, R.S. & Marrero Rodríguez, Á
European regional assessment: Endangered (EN)
EU 28 regional assessment: Endangered (EN)

Within the European region, this species is considered native to the Canary Islands and Madeira, with presence on the Azores resulting from introduction; whilst this introduction is likely to have occurred prior to 1500, records from the Azores are excluded here. In the Canaries, records are from Tenerife (most records), and also from Gran Canaria, La Palma, and El Hierro, and Gomera. Records from the latter three islands are considered to be the result of introductions, and on Gran Canaria only one juvenile natural individual remains. On Madeira, the species is often cultivated in gardens but is extinct in the wild on the island of Porto Santo, and on Madeira itself only a single wild tree remains (with further individuals existing but it is strongly suspected that they have been introduced). Excluding records from the Azores and records of uncertain origin elsewhere, the extent of occurrence is less than 20,000 km2 and the area of occupancy (AOO) is estimated at less than 100 km2.

The total population of natural individuals is c.1,135 individuals of which less than 674 are mature. The overall population trend is uncertain; it went extinct in the wild in the last ten years on Gran Canaria, and a single natural juvenile remains on Madeira, whilst on Tenerife populations are considered to be more or less stable as most remaining individuals are found in inaccessible areas and isolated from the more significant threats, although still impacted by storms, grazing and invasive plants. It is possible that it is recovering in some areas, and in areas where livestock grazing has been reduced, populations have recovered. The species is considered to be severely fragmented as a result of the geographical separation of the subpopulations.

The species is assessed as Endangered (EN B2ab(iii)) as a result of the restricted AOO, severe fragmentation, the ongoing decline in the quality and area of habitat.
Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:Within the European region, this species is native (as subspecies draco) to the Canary Islands and Madeira (a very small native population but with individuals introduced), with records from the Azores of uncertain origin. In the Canaries, records are from Tenerife (most records), and also from Gran Canaria, La Palma, and El Hierro, and Gomera. However the populations on La Palma, and El Hierro and Gomera are all considered to have resulted from introduction through cultivation (R.S. Almeida pers. comm. 2017). The area of occupancy is estimated at 92 km2 (Mesa Coello et al. 2015, Gobierno de Canarias 2017). Excluding records from the Azores and records of uncertain origin elsewhere, the extent of occurrence is less than 19,170 km2. The species is widespread in cultivation and the origin of some populations remains uncertain, however even if reintroduced populations on Tenerife were included, as these may have occurred within the natural historical range of the species, the EOO and AOO would still be restricted. In this assessment, the species is considered to not be native in the Azores archipelago, where its presence is likely the result of early introduction by the Portuguese from seeds from Madeira (or even the Canary Islands) and from Cape Verde, with some individuals there observed to have the characteristic of the Cape Verdean subspecies (subsp. caboverdeana).

Outside the European region the range extends to Cape Verde (subsp. caboverdeana) and the southwest Atlas Mountains of Morocco, with records from there segregated as subspecies ajgal (Almeida Pérez et al. 2004).
Countries occurrence:
Portugal (Azores - Introduced, Madeira); Spain (Canary Is.)
Additional data:
Estimated area of occupancy (AOO) - km2:92Continuing decline in area of occupancy (AOO):Unknown
Estimated extent of occurrence (EOO) - km2:19170
Continuing decline in extent of occurrence (EOO):No
Lower elevation limit (metres):30
Upper elevation limit (metres):1000
Range Map:30394-1

Population [top]

Population:The total population in the Canary Islands was estimated to be c.1,799 individuals (Mesa Coello et al. 2015, Gobierno de Canarias 2017) including the two known individuals on Gran Canaria, of which c.1,185 are mature, however, these estimates included introduced and cultivated individuals. Excluding the non-natural populations on La Palma, and El Hierro, and Gomera, Mesa Coello et al. (2015) found there to be 1,373 individuals (corresponding exclusively to the population on Tenerife only), of which 897 are adults and 476 are juveniles. However, the 2015 survey (Mesa Coello et al. 2015) also included two subpopulations that are considered to comprise of predominantly non-natural individuals (R.S. Almeida Pérez pers. comm. 2017); Isogue, and La Laguna-Valle Tabares-Tahodio. The Isogue subpopulation contains three mature individuals that are considered to be of natural origin out of 168 in total, with the remainder resulting from reintroductions that took place in the Isogue ravine a number of years ago. The La Laguna-Valle Tabares-Tahodio subpopulation comprises 74 individuals (70 adults and four juveniles), however none of these individuals can be considered wild, since the whole environment is strongly anthropocised (R.S. Almeida Pérez pers. comm. 2017). Within the La Laguna-Valle Tabares-Tahodio subpopulation is included the reintroduction site at Los Campitos ('Las Mesas in Mesa Coello et al. (2015)), which represents more than 80% of the individuals within the subpopulation. Taking into account the above, the total number of specimens on Tenerife (1,373) we would have to subtract 239 individuals corresponding to the Isogue and La Laguna-Valle de Tabares-Tahodio subpopulations, resulting in a total of 1,134 wild individuals for the whole island, of which 674 are adults, with an additional juvenile individual remaining on Madeira.

On Tenerife, subpopulations are generally small and highly dispersed and are mostly located in the ancient geological areas of the mountains of Anaga, Teno and Adeje. On Gran Canaria, the single wild individual in the Pino Gordo Gorge (San Nicolas de Tolentino) died in 2009 (Á. Marrero Rodríguez pers. comm. 2017), although there are two other autochthonous individuals in Meleguinas and in the ravine of Alonso (Santa Brígida). The dynamics of the populations are kept relatively stable, being observed to even have a perceptible natural regeneration in some enclaves, indicating good germination. The population recovery is slow, with the species in general behaving regressively. Many aspects of their reproductive biology are unclear, and the reason for the rarity today on Gran Canaria is uncertain. It currently shows little or no ability to disperse over long distance (Almeida Pérez et al. 2004).

On Madeira, the species is often cultivated in gardens but is extinct in the wild on the island of Porto Santo. On Madeira itself, one wild juvenile tree survives on a slope near the village Ribeira Brava, with two nearby adult individuals destroyed during strong storms that hit the island in February 2010. Another individual that existed near Ponta do Garajau in the east of Funchal fell into the sea in 1982 during a storm. Another set of individuals exist near Funchal in the Parque Natural da Madeira, but it is strongly suspected that they have been introduced there (Constância 2005).

In the Azores, the species is considered to have become established in the wild after introduction by humans. There are around 200-300 individuals on the island of São Jorge (C. Aguiar pers. obs. 2010). There are apparently more individuals on Flores, Faial and Corvo but it is not known how many there are or of they can be considered native. Schäfer (2002) states that the species is rare on Flores and very rare on Faial.

The overall population trend is declining, with one natural juvenile now known on Madeira, and the species went extinct in the wild on Gran Canaria within the last ten years. On Tenerife, most remaining individuals are found in inaccessible areas and isolated from the more significant threats. It is possible that the population is recovering in some areas on Tenerife, and in areas where livestock grazing has been reduced, populations have recovered (Mesa Coello et al. 2015). The dynamics of their populations remain relatively stable, showing a perceptible natural regeneration in some enclaves (bco. del Infierno, Roque de Las Ánimas, Roque de Tierra), indicating a good germination. However, population recovery is slow. It should be added that even in the core subpopulations where some natural regeneration is observed, several threat factors continue to occur, such as uncontrolled grazing, competition with exotic plants, and stochastic environmental factors such as rocky landslides and falls due to wind storms. Taken together, these factors cause losses of greater or lesser consideration. In addition, there is significant geographical fragmentation of the different subpopulations and the net separation of the three main population centres: Anaga, Teno and Adeje.
Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Number of mature individuals:674Continuing decline of mature individuals:Unknown
Extreme fluctuations:NoPopulation severely fragmented:Yes
Continuing decline in subpopulations:Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in subpopulations:NoAll individuals in one subpopulation:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:Long lived, this species reaches maturity after 30 years. It is a component of the Mayteno-Juniperion canariensis association. It is found on rocks, on ledges on cliffs, slopes of ravines, and also within piedmont, in the potential area of thermophilic forest (Mesa Coello et al. 2015), coexisting with characteristic species of Rhamno-Oleetea cerasiformis and Aeonio-Euphorbion canariensis, and various elements of rock-dwelling species, mostly Soncho-Aeonion. It can be found in association with Juniperus turbinata subsp. canariensis, Pistacia atlantica, Olea cerasiformis, Maytenus canariensis, Heberdenia excelsa, Rhamnus crenulata, Jasminum odoratissimum, Rubia fruticosa, several taxa of Aeonium, Sonchus, Euphorbia, etc. Flowering and fruiting is generally low and irregular in their wild populations, depending on climatic and environmental factors (Almeida Pérez et al. 2004).

It can be found in the following Habitats Directive listed habitats (Commission of the European Communities 2009):
  • 1250 Vegetated sea cliffs with endemic flora of the Macaronesian coasts.
  • 9320 Olea and Ceratonia forests.
Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat:Yes

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: The species is widely cultivated in gardens. The Dragon trees blood had a wide range of uses as a medicine, for staining violins and for embalming the dead. The leaves are collected for animal fodder.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Mesa Coello et al. (2015) considers the primary threats to be landslides impacting steeper areas of its habitat, and wind damage, especially in exposed areas. Grazing pressure from livestock (mainly goats) impacts seedling regeneration and juveniles. Browsing by rabbits may also impact some subpopulations. However most remaining populations are in inaccessible areas, cliffs etc., where direct impacts are low. Competition with exotic plants (e.g., Opuntia maxima and Agave americana) has also been cited as a threat (Mesa Coello et al. 2015). Hiking, trekking and climbing may impact some areas (Almeida Pérez 2011), however most remaining individuals are in inaccessible areas.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: The species is listed in Annex IV of the EU Habitats Directive and is listed under Appendix I of the Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (Bern Convention). In addition, it is also protected by regional law. It was assessed as Endangered B1ab(iii)+2ab(iii0; C2a(i) on the Spanish national red list (Moreno 2008) and as Endangered for the European Red List (Almeida Pérez 2011).

On the Canary Islands, populations are included in Parque Rural Nublo (SIC), Parque Rural Anaga (SIC), Reserva Natural Integral Roques de Anaga (SIC), Reserva Natural Integral Ijuana (SIC), Interián (SIC), Parque Rural Teno (SIC), Reserva Natural Especial Bco. del Infierno (SIC), Parque Natural Corona Forestal (SIC), Monumento Natural Montaña de Tejina and Riscos de Bajamar y Bco. de Niágara (SIC). Seeds exist in a germbank (Almeida Pérez et al. 2004).

In Portugal, the seeds of the species are stored in the seedbank of the Botanic Garden of Madeira and the same garden established a reintroduction plan (Commission of the European Communities 2009). This garden is also attempting vegetative propagation of one of the storm-damaged individuals of Madeira. Ex situ populations exist in the Museu do Pico (Azores) and in Oeiras, mainland Portugal.

Citation: Almeida Pérez, R.S. & Beech, E. 2017. Dracaena draco. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2017: e.T30394A103368016. . Downloaded on 25 September 2018.
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