The Millenary Dragon Tree
The municipality of Icod de los Vinos, northeast Tenerife, is home to the majestic Millenary Dragon Tree or Drago Milenario, one of the islands’ flagships, as well as one of the most impressive secret treasures amongst the archipelago’s flora.
This specimen of Dracaena draco was declared a National Monument back in 1917. With its 16 meters of height and 20 meters of perimeter, it continues to be the largest and oldest of its kind. Despite the various studies conducted, the exact age of this tree remains a mystery. The trunk of the tree-like plant is not woody, which means its age cannot be calculated by tree-ring dating. In order to work it out, the number of branches needs to be taken into account. Each branch corresponds to a flowering period, which takes place every 14 to 15 years. This way, the age is calculated by multiplying the number of branches of the plant by 15. The result is an approximate number plus the first 20 years of the tree’s life, during which it remains infertile, until its first flowering. According to this calculation process, Icod’s Dragon Tree is between 800 and 1,000 years old.
In 1985, the Tree and its surroundings were thoroughly cleaned up. A ventilator was installed within the trunk so as to facilitate air circulation and prevent fungus pests.
Due to its shape and size, the Dragon Tree has always been an enigma. Indigenous Canarian settlers used the leaves to feed the cattle and make rope. They used the bark as shields and the wood to manufacture various types of containers. But the most valuable part of the tree lies within. Its dark red sap, rich in flavones and isoflavones, is a powerful antioxidant. It was most appreciated, therefore, for its therapeutic properties and also to dye fabric. This way, native Canarians used it to heal or alleviate ulcers and bleedings as well as to strengthen their gums and clean their teeth. Some even believed the dragon tree’s sap was the elixir of immortality.
The dragon tree is the cherry on top of a beautiful 3-hectare park were the visitor will get to know some of the most typical Canarian endemic plant life, such as heathers, beeches, palm trees, dragon trees, cacti, limes and bay trees. The visitor can also enter a cave containing a replica of a guanche mummy and there are several outdoor picnic tables. Across the park, the visitors will find the ravine of Caforiño, commonly known as “river of Ycod” in reference to the permanent water course it used to be home to. Two suspension bridges make it possible to cross the ravine from one side to the other.
The dragon tree overlooks an area created to house smaller dragon trees, called the “Dragon Tree Nursery”, in which the visitor will learn about the species’ evolutionary process.
But there is more to visiting the Millenary Dragon Tree than meets the eye. Take a stroll around the pleasant area of Plaza de la Constitución square, located next to the dragon tree park and overlooking the Millenary Tree and its surroundings, picture perfect. The visit is complete with a taste of the delicacies offered in one of the many excellent restaurants and with some shopping at the gift shops in the area. A day to remember.
How to get there
By car, take the TF-5 motorway heading north, which connects with the TF-82 and take junction Icod de los Vinos / centro ciudad. It is also accessible by bus from Intercambiador Santa Cruz bus station –lines 106 and 108-, and from Puerto de la Cruz -lines 354 and 363.