Dracaena - Encyclopedia

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DRACAENA, in botany, a genus of the natural order Liliaceae, containing about fifty species in the warmer parts of the Old World. They are trees or shrubs with long, generally narrow leaves, panicles of small whitish flowers, and berried fruit. The most remarkable species is Dracaena Draco, the dragon-tree of the Canary Isles, which reaches a great size and age. The famous specimen in Teneriffe, which was blown down by a hurricane in 1868, when measured by Alexander von Humboldt, was 70 ft. high, with a circumference of 45 ft. several feet above the ground. A resin exuding from the trunk is known as dragon's blood.

Many of the cultivated so-called Dracaenas belong to the closely-allied genus Cordyline. They are grown for the beauty of form, colour and variegation of their foliage and are extremely useful as decorative stove plants or summer greenhouse plants, or for room and table decoration. They are easy to grow and may be increased by cuttings planted in sandy soil in a temperature of from 65° to 70° by night, the spring being the best time for propagation. The old stems laid flat in a propagating frame will push young shoots, which may be taken off with a heel when 2 or 3 in. long, and planted in sandy peat in 3-in. pots; the tops can also be taken off and struck. The established plants do best in fibry peat made porous by sand. In summer they should have a day temperature of 75°, and in winter one of 65°. Shift as required, using coarser soil as the pots become larger. By the end of the summer the small cuttings will have made nice plants, and in the spring following they can be kept growing by the use of manure water twice a week. Those intended for the conservatory should be gradually inured to more air by midsummer, but kept out of cold draughts. When the plants get too large they can be headed down and the tops used for cuttings.

A large number of the garden species of Dracaena are varieties of Cordyline terminalis. D. Goldieana is a grandly variegated species from west tropical Africa, and requires more heat.

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