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Dracaena in northern Thailand

April 8, 2010

Dracaena draco, the dragon-tree from the Canary Islands, has two relatives in northern Thailand. D. lourieri is fairly large, and can reach 15 meters or more, with numerous “heads” of attractive long (80 cm) leaves. It grows on limestone rocks in western Chiang Mai province, near Fang and Doi Ang Khang. It is particularly abundant at high elevation (above the pine belt, i.e. above 1200 meters above the sea level). In this area it is possible to grow many temperate species, why D. lourieri can be grown in temperate gardens and even tolerate mild frost. It can be grown at lower altitudes too, although some shade and extra water is important. It’s smaller sister, D. angustifolia, is most enchanting too. It branches rapidly, and can form decorative bushes on jagged lime stone rocks. This species demands much more shade, and if grown in the much hotter Chiang Mai valley, you need to create an environment similar to a fern garden (shady and moist, preferably with misting). While we had 32°C in the afternoon in Doi Ang Khang, it was 40°C in Chiang Mai. The evenings in the valley are about ten degrees hotter too. Some Dragon-trees from the Canary islands can be many hundreds of years old. We do not know much about the life-span of the Thai Dracaenas. In any case, these are long-lived and decorative native species, well worth the efforts to explore.

Eric Danell

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