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

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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

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: 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.

Deadwooding My Dragon Tree

That’s what the tree maintenance company that I hired called this task of removing dead vegetation from my dragon tree (very little in the way of dead branch removal, which is what deadwooding typically refers to, but more in the way of dead leaf removal).

The leaves of this glorious tree are wide and long, so when many of them fall on the ground at once, it can be quite the task to rake! Many of the dead leaves tend to fall down on their own, thank goodness, but there are enough stragglers up high in the tree to make it not practical for me to climb the tree and pluck out dead leaves one by one (thank goodness for the tree maintenance company).

The last time my large dragon tree was deadwooded was summer of 2008. So far, it looks okay, still aesthetically pleasing. And the chore of removing dead leaves on a tree such as this really is about aesthetics, keeping my tree neat and tidy looking (deadwooding for other trees may be important for other reasons, such as reducing combustible material in fire season, public safety, and vector control, among others). While I leave deadwooding of the large tree to the professionals, the smaller one by my front door, I do myself.

Check out the rust-colored remnants of beautiful sap at the base of  the leaves underneath my little dragon tree. Nothing about this tree is subtle!

Dragon Trees: Ages and Stages!

It may seem like these are different plants, but, I assure you, they are not! These are photos of my much beloved dragon trees, in different stages of development. The very petite tree in the first photo was taken just a few weeks ago and the result of an errant dragon-tree seed germinating in the soil and taking root! Propagating this tree from seed is inexpensive but is a long waiting game (the seeds are contained within the berries of the flower stalks that precede the appearance of berries – see the photo below of my mature tree).  Check out the size of this tiny baby tree, relative to the size of the cinder block behind it.

The other three photos are a bit older: the second photo is a dragon-tree cutting taken from my very mature tree and is thriving in a container. This cutting (and similar cuttings) have developed roots and settling in nicely in their containers. Cuttings are a good way to propagate this tree, although the cuttings can be quite heavy! I recommend taking cuttings from your mature tree in inconspicuous portions of the tree, to maintain the symmetry and beauty of the overall tree.

The third is a young but tall dragon tree on the side of my house (I am not sure of its origins: if from a seed from the mature tree, a cutting from the mature tree, or a separate, unrelated dragon tree planted there on purpose). When I first purchased my house, this particular tree was so low to the ground that I thought it was an agave or some other type of plant! Within 10 years’ time, this tree shot up, fairly rapid in tree years, I suppose, but fairly slow in people years!

The fourth photo is of my mature dragon tree. Each year, this tree produces flowers and berries, which eventually change from green to orange in color. Birds really LOVE to eat the pulp from these berries and leave the seeds behind, so it can be a bit untidy at times.

I want to showcase in one post how this tree develops and how it would look over the course of time. This is a good approximation of what you could expect if you were to grow a dragon tree from seed and planted it outdoors. Compare and contrast!

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