Dracaena serrulata (Arabian Dragon Tree) - A medium-sized slow growing small tree that ultimately grows to 10 to 15+ feet tall but the largest one known in cultivation in the US is about 6-8 feet tall. It produces a foot thick stout trunk that is sparsely branched with a crown of rosettes holding many rigid, 2 inch wide by 3-foot-long leaves that have finely toothed margins. The small light cream-colored flowers are produced in a well branched inflorescence.
Plant in full sun in a well-drained soil and irrigate very little to not at all. Hardiness is not well known but our plant was not damaged during the January 2007 freeze with 3 nights down to 25° F and the Huntington has had it in their garden since the late 1960s, so presumably it weathered many colder years there.
This plant grows naturally on very hot dry rocky sea facing slopes in a Northern Yemen and Oman on the southern Arabian Peninsula with another form known as far north as Saudi Arabia. In this harsh environment it is sometimes found looking like a tree, but more often has an irregular shape without a well-defined crown. Dracaena serrulata is considered to be Endangered, which is defined as a plant facing a very high risk of extinction in the wild in the near future due to population reduction, decline in area of occupancy, extent of occurrence, quality of habitat and potential levels of exploitation.
The name Dracaena comes from the Latin word 'draco', meaning "dragon" that was already used for the specific epithet for this same plant. This new name was ascribed by Linnaeus in 1767 when he renamed the plant originally called Asparagus draco. The specific epithet is in reference to the finely serrated leaf margins. Though visually different, some botanists consider this species to be taxonomically indistinct from the Nubian Dragon Tree, Dracaena ombet, that grows on the Red Sea Hills and Jebel Elba in Sudan and Egypt.
Our plants came from micropropagated plants produced at Rancho Tissue Technology. The original culture was given to them by the Huntington Botanic Garden and originated from seedling plants produced as part of the International Succulent Introductions (ISI) program as Dracaena serrulata ISI 2004-20. This introduction was from plants grown from seed produced by self pollinating the flowering specimen in the Huntington’s Desert Garden. This original plant, Dracaena serrulata (HBG 21109, UCBG 67.552) was collected by John Lavranos in July 1967 at Audhali Plateau, North of Lawdar, Yemen. Our oldest plant of this species, now a nice specimen in a large pot in the garden, is a seedling that was also from the 2004 ISI distribution.
Information about Dracaena serrulata displayed on this page is based on our research about it conducted in our library and gathered from reliable online sources. We include observations made of this plant as it grows in our nursery gardens and in other gardens that we have visited, as well as how the crops have performed in containers in our own nursery field. We will also incorporate comments that we receive from others about this plant when we feel it adds information and particularly welcome hearing from anyone who has any additional cultural recommendations that would aid others in growing it.