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Charophyta > Streptophytina > Plantae (land plants)
> Tracheophyta (vascular plants) > Euphyllophyta > Lignophyta (woody plants)
> Spermatophyta (seed plants) > Angiospermae (flowering
plants) > Monocotyledons > Order: Asparagales
> Family: Asparagaceae
About 60 species (warmer regions of
the world), with five species native to southern Africa and
a further three species that are cultivated in the region. Previously placed
in the family Dracaenaceae, then the Ruscaceae, neither
of which is now recognised.
Species native to southern Africa
of Southern Africa - an Online Checklist (SANBI), and Palgrave &
A shrub or small tree usually with a
main stem topped by a rosette of elongate (usually
60-100 cm long) leaves. Grows in the shady understorey
of forests in South Africa and Swaziland, its
distribution extending from the Eastern Cape to Limpopo.
fragrans (Cornstalk dracaena)
A shrub or tree growing in the
understorey of forests in tropical Africa. In southern
Africa it has been recorded from eastern Zimbabwe and
Mozambique. Widely cultivated as a garden and indoor
plant with certain varieties having yellow and green
Dracaena mannii (Small-leaved
A many-branch tree with
branches terminating in rosettes of relatively short (up
to 40 cm) and narrow (up to 2 cm) leaves. Distribution
in southern Africa is limited to Kosi Bay area in South
Africa, Mozambique and eastern Zimbabwe. It is widely
distributed in tropical Africa and in these regions is
used extensively for various medicines and has other
uses such as for dyes, soaps, and is planted as a hedge.
Dracaena steudneri (Northern
A tree that
grows in the understorey and on the margin of evergreen
forests in eastern and central Africa, extending as far
south as eastern Zimbabwe, and Mozambique.
A shrub or small
tree with a main stem terminating in a rosette of
elongate erect leaves, 30-50 cm long. For a Dracaena
it is unusual in growing in a fairly arid, open
habitat, with its distribution limited to the dry
bushveld escarpment of northern Mpumalanga and southern
Limpopo provinces in South Africa.
Other species, cultivated in southern Africa
List from Glen (2002).
Dracaena draco (Dragon tree)
Native to the Canary Islands, Cape
Verde, Madeira, Azores, and western Morocco. See
Dracaena reflexa (Pleomele
Native to Madagascar. Note that
Dracaena reflexa var. nitens has been
synonymised with Dracaena mannii. See
Native to tropical Africa.
Dracaena plants are often grown in garden because of
their interesting form but their cultivation is limited by the fact that
they are evidently not frost-hardy.
Some species of Dracaena produce yield a red sap
('dragon's blood') that is used for medicinal purposes.
Palgrave, K.C. and Palgrave, M.C. 2002. Trees of Southern Africa.
3rd Edition. Struik Publishers, Cape Town.