Dragon Tree, “Blood” Resin

One year ago, I removed a few branches from my large dragon tree. One of the cut areas is now showing a small amount of the very dark “dragon tree blood” resin. It is so very striking, a very deep red. The tree is very healthy and robust. This is the first time I’ve seen evidence of the famed “dragon’s blood.” One of my beloved tree’s mysteries has been revealed. Stunning.IMG_3367

Dragon Tree: Branches Cut

Prompted by my recent visit from a termite inspector, I successfully cut a few small branches from my dragon trees. I took 3 branches from the larger tree and 1 branch from the smaller tree. These branches were growing towards my roof. This project was a preventive measure against a costly roof repair. I returned minutes ago from my home improvement store with an electric chain saw that I rented from them (Makita, 16 inch). The person at the store was very kind and gave me brief instructions and I was on my way. The time I spent actually cutting the branches was probably around 5 minutes. The overall integrity and structure of both trees have been preserved. The photos also show before and after the cuts.

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TIP: In the past, I would have called my tree guy to take care of something like this, but thinking about it, I wondered if I could just take care of it myself. Had I gone with the tree guy, it would have cost around $200-$250. With my first-ever effort with a chain saw, it cost the princely sum of $36.89.

It started to rain a bit by the clean-up, so I got a bit dirty and wet, which made it really fun. I’m wearing goggles and a pink hoodie and splattered with ground-up bits of tree branch. Now that’s a fantastic experience! Some folks shy away from the manual labor, but I love it. I came away from this experience with a new skill, which makes it very satisfying. It’s always great to pick up a useful and practical skill!

The branch cuttings: from previous experience, they can lay flat like that for several months and then planted into containers and root successfully. I will do that in the next weekend or even later. Dragon trees (and their cuttings) are quite resilient and strong, inspiring and always beautiful!

Female Hooded Oriole on a Dragon Tree Seed Stalk

It’s been three years since I was last able to photograph a hooded oriole in my yard. This time, my camera was close at hand to capture an image of this beautiful female. I’ve been hearing its somewhat harsh kek-kek-kek call in my neighbor’s citrus trees for several weeks, initially thinking it might be a squirrel making that sound. With no squirrel in sight, I concluded that it had to be a bird but I needed a sighting to confirm my suspicions.IMG_3246

It was again in my neighbor’s citrus trees but I had my camera ready in case in flew into my back yard. Amazingly, it did find its way here, briefly perching atop one of the seed stalks of one of my dragon trees – she’s in the center of the photo. She looks right at home to me!

Succulent: Purple Aeonium Branches Sprout Roots

The purple aeonium continues to amaze. Check out the roots that are sprouting from the branches, which, by the way are well above the ground! The roots to the left look like thin fibers while those on the right are finger-like and thick, very much like my Dracaena draco tree and wild grape.IMG_3232

This is the first time any of my purple aeoniums have done this, so my impression is that this succulent plant has reached sufficient maturity to start doing this. The thicker roots – I have a good idea of what they’ll do: they will just get longer and longer until they make contact with the soil and grow into it. But the thin fiber-like roots: I am not sure how they will change with time, or if they will change. I am quite excited to see what happens, though. This lovely purple succulent is such a thrilling surprise!

CONSUMER ALERT: The grapes on the succulent, known as “wild grape,” have been described as poisonous or toxic because the grapes contain oxalic acid, and should not be eaten. Further information about this plant (and its toxicity) is found here: http://botanicalgarden.berkeley.edu/SOM/SOM-october06.shtml

Dragon Tree Cuttings Are Busting Out of Their Containers!

Nearly six years ago, I had several branches trimmed from my oldest, primary dragon tree because they were growing into the roof of my garage. I promptly put the cuttings into 5-gallon plastic containers filled with soil and watered every few weeks and left them in my back yard to enjoy their lives! And enjoy them they did, for I am happy to post these photos of two of these tree cuttings that are now stand-alone trees in their own right. Wow! They have grown not very much taller but have grown wider and have established new roots. I will eventually cut away the plastic containers that they have outgrown when it is safe to do so without damaging the trees. The tree cuttings were a bit curved and heavy so I placed them up against a long wood bench to help prop them up while they grew. It’s so exciting to see them grow.IMG_3198IMG_3199

One of these cuttings actually produces seed stalks, seeds from which totally new trees are born. It is so thrilling to know that I can propagate these trees from cuttings as well as from these seeds – a very simple process. These trees have a will to survive like I have not seen in most plants and it is inspiring to see that they can adapt to changing conditions, the epitome of resilience. Long live these beautiful dragon trees!

Dried Dragon Tree Leaves to Be Raked

This is what the autumn season looks like in my tiny point on the planet! We’ve been having a lot of strong, dry winds whipping through several nearby communities in the past few days. My much beloved dragon tree has shed many dried leaves as a result. Since I am the only one on my street (possibly my whole city) who has this tree, when the winds (hopefully) subside later this afternoon, I will be raking up many of these leaves from my and my neighbors’ yards. The leaves are nearly the length of my arm!IMG_3111

But I am lucky, though. I only have to rake leaves. About an hour ago, I was driving through a nearby city and saw that several branches from trees snapped off. I also saw one very large, mature tree uprooted.

I only have to do a “heavy raking” just a few times a year, so it’s still low maintenance. This particular tree is decades old and remains the grand lady of my neighborhood all year round!

Birds: Bushtits in My 3-in-1 Pear Tree

My 3-in-1 pear trees (which produced quince but no traditional pears this season)  are very popular with birds. For a long time, I’ve known that bushtits enjoy flitting to and from these particular trees but it’s been very difficult to capture them in photos, until today!IMG_2927

It’s somewhat hard to see but one of the acrobatic birds is the dark gray, small but plump blob in the center of this photo, underneath the long, thin horizontal branch. The head is a little darker than the rest of the body. Click on the image to get a better look.

They’re very gregarious and tweet a lot while they’re hanging out – I wonder what they are saying to each other?

Many birders strive to get the “perfect,” crisp, close-up shot of a highly colorful male bird, with its face pointed directly at the camera lens without any physical obstructions to block that perfect shot. That’s not often possible, nor realistic! Oftentimes, I will check my backyard and spot a bird and identify it by its song or view of its tail, etc. In other words, I like to see birds in situ. This photo brings me great joy, and to me, the capture of a lovely moment in time.

More information about this delightful and lively birds can be found here: http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Bushtit/id

In the background, with its mighty sword-like leaves,  is one of my dragon trees, grown from a branch cutting, in a container.

CONSUMER ALERT UPDATE:  The quince is related to apples and pears, whose seeds are highly toxic if ingested.  For this reason, do not ingest the seeds of these fruits.

More information on toxic plants can be found here:

http://www.calpoison.org/hcp/KNOW%20YOUR%20PLANTS-plant%20list%20for%20CPCS%2009B.pdf

Dragon Tree Roots

Check out the roots of one of my older dragon trees. Roots are in the center and to the left. The roots slowly but surely find their way into the soil. Often, when trees are mature, we miss out on all of the exciting root activity underneath! This is a wonderful opportunity to see the process from the beginning.

The trunk of this particular tree is also very beautiful as well. Yesterday, during my flurry of garden maintenance, I removed the dead leaves from this tree. Now it is totally refreshed.

I see this tree first thing every morning. I love my dragon trees!

Dragon Tree: Young Seed Stalk

One of the things that I enjoy about gardening is seeing plants through their life cycle.  One of the branch cuttings that I took a few years ago and placed into a container is thriving is now a tree in its own right and has produced a seed stalk. Success!

Visitors to this blog have often asked about propagating this tree. It has been very easy propagating from tree branch cuttings, as this photo attests, but also by removing the pulp that encapsulates the seeds and planting the seeds into soil. Check out the photo of this young seed stalk, compared to a more mature seed stalk from the parent tree, when it completely awash with fleshy seeds!

The seeds become a dark orange over time and attracts all of the neighborhood birds!

Dragon Tree Maintenance

Mature dragon trees do not require much maintenance except for clean up of seeds that fall to the ground from their seed stalks and dried up old leaves that either fall off the tree or stay tangled up with the young, live leaves. One of the most painful things I have experienced as the caretaker of these beautiful trees is discovering the unauthorized butchering of the leaves.

Because of a bad back, I have a gardener taking care of most of my front yard, primarily to mow my lawn. Apparently inconvenienced by some low-hanging leaves as he was trimming an adjacent bush, the gardener took to pulling off healthy green leaves. I heard the ripping sounds and ran outside to stop him.

My tree has three trunks. As shown in the picture, the foreground shows the part of the tree trunk that has had natural leaf fall. In the background, the smaller trunk shows quite a lot of the remaining nubs of where leaves were ripped out.

It seemed also that the gardener was unfamiliar with this tree and perhaps thought it was something like a yucca palm tree, and “trimmed” it of its “extraneous” leaves so as to have a martini-glass shape.

Thankfully, this tree is tough, a real fighter, and I have no doubt about it recovering from a misguided garden maintenance effort. In the end, I educated the gardener about this tree and, sadly, stated that it was henceforth off-limits to everyone but me.

What I learned:  If you have an unusual plant for your area and have a gardener assisting in the maintenance of your garden, it will save you quite a bit of stress (and possibly having to replace plants) if you instruct the gardener early (and often) about the proper care of your plants.

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