Dracaena americana: Classification, Distribution, Characteristics, Ecology, and Ethnobotany

Dracaena Americana: Classification, Distribution, Characteristics, Ecology, and Ethnobotany


The contentious group of three taxa in the Asparagaceae subfamily Nolinoideae was referred to as the “Dracaenoids” by Lu & Morden (2014). The group contains Dracaena L., which was described in 1767 and has 60 species, most of which are shrubs and some of which are trees (Mabberley, 2008). The second genus in the group is Sansevieria Thunb., which was proposed in 1794 and has 60 species with a predominantly herbaceous habit and leathery or succulent leaves (Mabberley, 2008). Sansevieria is still acknowledged and frequently used, notably in the horticulture literature, despite accumulating evidence that it is not phylogenetically separate from Dracaena (Bos, 1998; Kim et al., 2010). According to Wagner et al. (1990), the third genus is Pleomele Salisb., which was first described in 1796 and contains 40–50 species. However, many contemporary taxonomists consider Pleomele to be a synonym of Dracaena (Bos, 1998; Mabberley, 2008). The Dracaenoids are a diverse group that can be found in Africa, Madagascar, the Arabian Peninsula, islands in the Indian Ocean, South Asia, Southeast Asia, Australia, Micronesia, Hawaii, México and Central America (and northwestern South America), Cuba, and Macaronesia (Mabberley, 2008). The Dracaena species is one of the most recognizable and well-known. The Dragon Tree of Macaronesia and Northwestern Africa is known as Draco (L.) L. Along with the normal subspecies [native to Madeira and the Canary Islands; also found in the Azores, but it is unknown if the species was introduced by humans], Dracaena draco has two more subspecies: In addition, D. tamaranae Marrero Rodr., R. S. Almeida & Gonz.-Mart., the second species of Canary Island dragon tree, was identified in the late 20th century (Marrero Rodrguez et al., 1998). Since antiquity, Dracaena draco has been known in the Old World as one of the main sources of “dragon’s blood,” along with D. cinnabari Balf. f. of Socotra (Schafer, 1957, Edward et al., 2001).


Kingdom: Plantae

Familia:  Asparagaceae

Genus: Dracaena

Species: Dracaena Americana

Common names: Central American Dragon Tree


Dracaena americana is widely distributed throughout Panamá, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Veracruz, Oaxaca, and southern Mexico (Tabasco, Veracruz, Quintana Roo, and Chiapas). The elevational range of Dracaena americana is wide, extending from sea level to over 1,900 m, however, it is often collected between 200 and 700 m. Unlike the wide variety of Dracaena americana,

D. cubensis has a constrained geographic range. It only affects northeastern Cuba, specifically Moa and the area around it (Holgun Province), as well as Baracoa, La Farola, the Ro Jauco, and the surrounding territories (Guantánamo). Although the species can be found at heights up to 1,000 m, it typically occurs between sea level and 600 m above sea level. Alain (1946) described the Moa region as a “heaven for botanists,” citing D. cubensis as one of the most significant characteristics that set the location apart from others on the island of Cuba.


1. Dracaena americana is a shrub or small tree that can reach heights of 10 to 12 metres and has a trunk diameter of up to 30 cm. It typically has many stems.

2. The bark is peeling and grayish-brown in colour. Young branches have oblique leaf scars on them. D. americana has leaves along the length of its stems, in contrast to many Dracaena species that bear their leaves in tufts at the tip of their stems.

3. Bright green, linear leaves are soft and flexible, measuring 20–35 cm long and 1.0–2.5 cm wide at the base.

4. The inflorescence measures 20 to 30 cm in length, is paniculate, terminal, and branching into two orders.

5. Tepals are creamy white and about 7 mm long; the flowers are carried on short pedicels in clusters of 2–5.

6. A species description from Standley & Steyermark (1952) and Grayum (2003) states that the berries can be up to 20 mm in diameter, occasionally lobed, and contain one to three subglobose seeds that are 10–12 mm in diameter.

Ecology and Conservation

The species Dracaena americana prefers hot, humid, or subhumid environments with an annual rainfall of more than 1,500 mm and average temperatures between 26 and 28 °C. Shallow, humus-rich rendzina soils develop on limestone karst on mild slopes, where it primarily grows. Although the species is found in the medium to the low layer of the forest, the predominant kind of vegetation is a wet forest with a canopy height of up to 25 metres. In well-maintained stands, some individuals can reach heights of 18 metres. Individuals are substantially less in size in dry, sunny places. Small individuals are therefore typically found in forest gaps, along forest edges, and on disturbed terrain. The plants are less robust and more likely to grow prostrate branches in dense forest stands.

This species’ paniculate inflorescences are in full bloom in the spring, and ripe fruits start to form by the end of the fall. Fruits fluctuate in colour from bright yellow to scarlet. Birds and howler monkeys find the sweet-tasting fruits to be enticing (Lancaster, 1964; Rivas Romero et al., s.d). (Trolliet, 2010).


According to Rico-Gray et al. (1991; Balick et al. (2000), Dracaena americana is grown in backyard gardens as fibre and aesthetic plant as well as for cattle fodder (Levy Tacher et al., 2010). Although he did not say how or what portion of the plant was eaten, Contreras Cortés (2011) reported that the species is utilized for food by the Lacandón people of Chiapas, Mexico.

At the Jardn Botánico Regional of Centro de Investigación Cientfica de Yucatán (CICY) (= Yucatán Center for Scientific Research), located in Mérida, Yucatán, dracaena americana has been successfully produced (Escalante, 1993). The original components were gathered from plants in southern Quintana Roo, Mexico. Although these plants have produced both flowers and fruits, the seeds are slow to germinate and challenging to grow from. The Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in the United States is where the species is grown (Sarasota, Florida). a multi-location look for D Numerous European and US botanical gardens including Americana

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: Is dracaena a healthy indoor plant?

Ans: Yes

Question: Does dracaena require sunlight?

Ans: Dracaena prefers bright, indirect light

Question: Is dracaena toxic to humans?

Ans: No

Question: Is Dracena toxic to pets?

Ans: No

Question: Does Dracena cause toxicity in Cats?

Ans: Yes

Question: Does Dracena cause toxicity in dogs?

Ans: Yes

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