The Unearthly Flora of Socotra Islands
We generally write about places we have visited in our Travel section, but this time its an exception. My eyes popped out when I saw the pictures of the untouched Socotra Island. Its rich biodiversity reflects the uniqueness of nature’s creation, so distinct and bizarre that you will be tempted to go there.
It is a small archipelago of four islands in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Northeast Africa (also known as Horn of Africa) and south of the Arabian peninsula, belonging to the Republic of Yemen.
Due to its long geological isolation and its fierce heat and drought have combined to create spectacular species of flora and fauna, one-third of the 800 or so plants are found nowhere else but Socotra. They are remnants of the flora that disappeared from the African-Arabian mainland. The wide sandy beaches rise to limestone plateaus full of caves, and the endangered plants are unbelievably alien-like. Take a look at this one below, the mushroom-shaped Dragon’s Blood tree (Dracaena cinnabari). These aren’t trimmed to give that shape, they are naturally like this.
All of them together look like flying saucer, really trippy. Their shape protects them from strong winds. Dragon’s Blood tree is the source of valuable resin for varnishes, dyes, and medicine; also used in medieval ritual magic and alchemy. The 40,000 people who live on Socotra use it to cure stomach problems, glue pottery, decorate pottery and houses and even as lipstick.
Desert Rose (Adenium obesium), is this a trunk or an elephant’s leg?
This one looks as if the tree was planted upside down.
The succulent Socotran Fig Tree (Dorstenia gigas) with a swollen trunk; this one looks like a human hanging upside down. The importance of the swollen trunk is that it keeps the trees supplied with water during droughts.
A rare Cucumber Tree (Dendrosicyos socotranum), cucumber are climbing plants or shrubs, but in Socotra its different, the tree grows up to four metres high.
These rare species are found in Socotra because its not yet touched by modern development. In fact the first paved roads were built by Yemen government only 2-3 years ago. So it was not easily accessible.
How to Reach Socotra Islands?
If you plan on traveling to this island, then there are only two flights a week to the island, operated by Yemen Airways. On the island, you need to hire a four-wheel-drive vehicle, as well as an English-speaking driver and guide to take you around.
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