|Mature specimens on Réunion.|
Dracaena reflexa (commonly called song of India or song of Jamaica) is a tree native to Mozambique, Madagascar, Mauritius, and other nearby islands of the Indian Ocean. It is widely grown as an ornamental plant and houseplant, valued for its richly coloured, evergreen leaves, and thick, irregular stems.
While it may reach a height of 4–5 m, rarely 6 m in ideal, protected locations, D. reflexa is usually much smaller, especially when grown as a houseplant. It is slow-growing and upright in habit, tending to an oval shape with an open crown. The lanceolate leaves are simple, spirally arranged, 5–20 cm long and 1.5–5 cm broad at the base, with a parallel venation and entire margin; they grow in tight whorls and are a uniform dark green.
The flowers are small, clustered, usually white and extremely fragrant, appearing in mid winter. Neither the flowers nor the fruit are especially showy. D. reflexa var. angustifolia (syn. D. marginata) differs in having a magenta tint to its flowers, a shrubby habit, and olive green leaves.
- Dracaena reflexa var. angustifolia Baker – western Indian Ocean islands
- Dracaena reflexa var. bakeri (Scott Elliot) H.Perrier – south-east Madagascar
- Dracaena reflexa var. brevituba H.Perrier – central Madagascar
- Dracaena reflexa var. condensata H.Perrier – south-east Madagascar
- Dracaena reflexa var. lanceolata H.Perrier – Madagascar
- Dracaena reflexa var. linearifolia Ayres ex Baker – Mascarenes, Madagascar
- Dracaena reflexa var. nervosa H.Perrier – Madagascar
- Dracaena reflexa var. occidentalis H.Perrier – west and south-west Madagascar
- Dracaena reflexa var. parvifolia Thouars ex H.Perrier – east Madagascar
- Dracaena reflexa var. reflexa – north-east Mozambique, western Indian Ocean islands
- Dracaena reflexa var. salicifolia (Regel) Baker – Madagascar
- Dracaena reflexa var. subcapitata H.Perrier – east Madagascar
- Dracaena reflexa var. subelliptica H.Perrier – east Madagascar
Cultivation and uses
Dracaena reflexa is a popular ornamental plant, both in the landscape and the home. It can be enjoyed as a specimen plant, accent, or pruned to create a border. Several cultivars have been selected, particularly variegated clones with cream and yellow-green margins. It performs well as a houseplant, tolerating infrequent waterings. It prefers bright, filtered light, without direct sun exposure, restricted outdoors to zones 10–11. It has average water needs and should be fertilized bi-weekly when actively growing. Although it can survive in relatively low light levels, the plant may grow spindly if given insufficient light. When grown indoors, temperatures of 18 °C to 25 °C (64 °F to 77 °F) should be maintained. It can be propagated via herbaceous stem cuttings.
Traditional medicine practitioners of Madagascar have long believed Dracaena reflexa to cure malarial symptoms, poisoning, dysentery, diarrhea, dysmenorrhea, and to be useful as an antipyretic and hemostatic agent. The leaves and bark are mixed with parts of a number of other native plants and mixed into herbal teas. Its effectiveness in any such treatment remains unproven.
The fruit of D. reflexa is also important to the diet of the Malagasy black-and-white ruffed lemur (Varecia variegata variegata). The Frégate beetle (Polposipus herculeanus), an endangered species endemic to Frégate Island (Seychelles), is also known to associate with this plant.
Dracaena reflexa var. angustifolia
Dracaena reflexa var. angustifolia is also known as D. marginata, a name found in horticulture. This is a durable popular tropical house plant from Madagascar. The thin leaves are linear and a deep, glossy green color with red edges; typically 30–90 cm long and 2–7 cm broad, tapering to an acuminate point. It is a popular houseplant that needs little attention, with several cultivars available with the leaves variegated with red or pale yellow.
It requires a minimum temperature of 15 °C (59 °F), and is more tolerant than most plants of dry soil and irregular watering, though liable to root decay in permanently wet soil. Because it requires minimal care it is very popular in offices where the constant heat and light suits its growing requirements. They can grow between 2.5–4 meters in height and will ultimately spread between 1.5–2.5 meters.
There are many commonly used names to describe this variety that arise due to the various growth patterns and different cultivars. Some of the most popular are red edge dracaena, Madagascar dragon tree dracaena, dragon blood tree, and tree dracaena. With the variety of forms and cultivars, there are also some hybrid crosses that can arise as well.
The plant can be grown in virtually any pattern, with the most popular being bush, straight cane, staggered cane, tree form, and custom character forms. The variety also has a handful of different cultivars from selective breeding. These include 'Tarzan', 'Magenta', 'Tricolor', and 'Colorama'.
D. reflexa var. angustifolia has the ability to grow in a mixture of both shade and sun, both inside and outside the home. If planted outside, it needs to be located in U.S. Department of Agriculture hardiness zones 10b and above because of the fact that most tropical plants cannot survive frost or winter. Additionally, it would prefer to have some shelter during the hot afternoon sun if planted outside in direct sunlight. Tolerant of different soil types, it thrives in organic fertile soil that is well drained. Once a mature plant is established, it is quite drought-tolerant, but for peak health will require a moderate amount of water. If planted indoors, the soil should be kept evenly moist. Depending on the amount of water and frequency, it is recommended to water a plant once or twice per week. Fertilizer is not required, but small dosages in the early spring and summer will keep it well-nourished.
Typically any indoor plant disease rarely affects D. reflexa var. angustifolia. The most common issue it suffers from is a result of improper watering. Improper watering can be either too much or too little, but a majority of the time is due to over-watering. When the soil is over-watered, root rot can occur on the leaves because the soil is unable to properly drain. This can lead to discoloration and droopy leaves.
It is one of the plants used in the NASA Clean Air Study and has shown to help remove formaldehyde. It is an effective air cleaner and is said to be among the best plants for removing xylene and trichloroethylene.
- Media related to Dracaena reflexa at Wikimedia Commons
- Media related to Dracaena marginata at Wikimedia Commons
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