Croton lechleri: description, taxonomy, sowing and harvest

I. Taxonomy

Family: Euphorbiaceae.

Scientific name: Croton lechleri Muell-Arg.

Common names: Eshape and Jata akui (the name comes from the Ese Ejja, indigenous people of Bolivia and Peru, in the southwestern Amazon basin); Ginmunaji (piro and yine also from the Amazon in Peru); Irare, Jimi mosho y Shawan karo (shipibo, another tribe in the Peruvian Amazon); Kosamáti (matsigenka); Masikamboya (amahuaca); Palo de grado, Pocure, Racurana, Sangre de drago (Ecuador); Uksavakiro, Widnku (amarakaeri); Yawar wiki (kichwa)
Other common names: Sangre de Drago (Europe), Sangre de Grado (Latin America)

II. Botanical description of the Dragon’s Blood tree:

The Dragon’s Blood tree is characterized by having a broad, globular, round top and a bark of a grayish-whitish color that oozes a red wine colored latex. Its leaves have a cordate shape (heart-shaped leaves) that are alternated, sometimes opposing each other or in a whorled form. The leaves are from 5 to 8 inches long and from 2 to 6 inches wide with 2 glands on the base. The growing leaves are wrinkled on both sides.

Terminal inflorescence in loose clusters. Amber colored flower, numerous stamens.

Globular fruit in capsule form, flat, dehiscent in an elastic way, it is 0.1 inches long to 0.2 inches wide. It has three bivalve monocarpic parts. Its seeds are smooth with an oleaginous wattle and endosperm.

 Dragon’s blood tree. Biotype of natural populationsIII. Environmental information

Climate: Warm with high relative humidity, annual average temperature between 64 and 86°F, precipitation between 2000 to 3300 mm/year with a minimum of 1000 mm, altitudinal level between 300 to 2080 meters above sea level.

Soil: It develops well in clayey land or sandy-clayey land, with abundant or scant organic matter, good drainage and air ventilation and moderately acidic (5,6 to 6) to slightly alkaline (7,4 to 7,8)

IV. Dragon’s blood tree. Biotype of natural populations

The Dragon’s Blood tree grows in areas adjacent to ravines, virgin and secondary forests, stationary flooded areas in lowland rainforests, new crop fields, closed and young secondary forests and flood-prone land with high swelling. The tree tends to be found in shady areas, but it is also abundant in sunny land and moderately resists flooding.

The Dragon’s blood cohabitates in the same area with the following species: cetico, garcinia madruno, cotton, sapodilla, lime, pine nut tree, brunfelsia grandiflora, cat’s claw, spondias mombin, patiquina, tangarana tree, tree mallow, sugar cane, jacaranda copaia (Huamansamana), physalis peruviana (golden berry or uvilla), huasai, socratea exorrhiza, calathea lutea, huacapu, topa, aguaje palm, shimbillo, carahuasca tree, bauhinia ungulata (monkey’s stairs), abuta grandifolia and iriartea deltoidea (huacrapona palm tree).

V. Dragon’s blood sowing:

Sowing season: In varzea forest (floodable forest), the cultivation must be done right after the water level goes back down (normally in June in Iquitos, a region in Peru). It is better to plant in firm ground at the beginning of the rainy season (November to December in Iquitos).

Space between each crop: 0.2 to 0.3 inches is recommended 0.2 to 0.3. It can also be used distances of 0.2 to 0.4 inches (F. Ayala, personal comment)

Sowing task: Control of weeds growing during the first year to avoid competition from other species.

Sowing association proposal: It can be planted in stationary flooded and not flooded areas in lowland rainforests or higher land, sharing land with other forest or fruit species such as the swietenia macrophylla (aguano tree), cedar, cedrelinga cateniformis (tornillo tree), cocoa tree and annatto. The temporary crops, once they reach two years of development, will be chosen according the criteria of those interested.

Propagation: Through sexual seeds. The germination power of the recent seed can reach 80% of development in 14 days. Using a plant nebulizer, spreading through stem stakes has been accomplished. The transplant is done in bare root, in holes of 12 inches of diameter and 12 inches depth, always when the saplings are 8 inches of height. Regarding saplings with a natural regeneration and a height greater than 8 inches, the transplant will have an 80% adaptation. Watch the video in the following link “Value chain of Dragon’s Blood.”

Harvest and preservation of the product (Dragon’s Blood resin)

VI. Harvest and preservation of the product (Dragon’s Blood resin)

Parts of the tree most utilized: resin, bark and wood.

Harvest: The latex extraction must be done without cutting the tree down, with an indigenous method through a whorled or v shaped cut on the bark in the middle section between the ground and the top. The whorled cut is performed from left to right, which allows for a better latex dripping. There are other elements that influence the latex extraction: solar radiation, tree diameter, foliage, angle of the cut, precipitation and lunar phases, being the most convenient between first quarter and full moon.

The latex production during the morning in flood-prone areas and rain season was of 250 cubic centimeters, considering trees of 13.7 inches of diameter, and of 2000 cubic centimeters, considering trees of 19.6 inches of diameter. In Ucayali, a region of Peru, the flowering occurs from June to August and the fruit harvest in September. It is considered that the plantation reaches a profitable production from the 8th year on. The national production between 1991 and 1993 was 951.01 gallons of latex per year and 6966.6 pounds of bark per year.

Post-harvest task: After its extraction, the latex must be preserved in containers that are hermetically closed and stored in cold places. The addition of liquor in small quantities prevents the hardening and crystallization of the product.

Complementary information
Chemical components: It contains taspine alkaloid (wound healing effect), oligometric proanthocyanidines (SP-303). Species in this family present antitumor and alkaloid agents such as: pyridine, aporphine, quinoline, tropane, unsaturated fatty acids, anthraquinones, fatty epoxycides and triteropenoids. From the croton family, 30 alkaloids have been isolated, 22 with known structure, solutaridine, taspine, sinoacutina, sparciflorin being the main ones. It is also found benzoic acid, pigments, tannin and other elements.

Medicinal use: Vaginal antiseptic, wound healer, contraceptive, effective against dermic illnesses, anemia, cancer, diarrhea, teeth extraction, pharyngitis, tonsillitis, fever, gonorrhea, hemorrhoids, leucorrhoea, malaria, tumors and stomach and intestinal ulcers.

Other uses: the lumber of this species is used to make wood boxes, toothpick, supplies for paper and firewood.

Geographical distribution: The tropics and subtropics of America. It is found in Peru in the following areas of Loreto: Llachapa, Napo River, Indiana, the Amazon River, Padre Cocha and Momon, Nanay River, San Martín, Huanuco, Cerro de Pasco, Oxapampa, Satipo, Puerto Bermudez, Iscozacin, Villa Rica, Junin Chanchamayo, Cusco and Puno.
Bibliographical References
NEBEL, G.; DRAGSTED, J.; VANCLAY, J. 2000 b. Floral structure and composition of the prone-flood alluvial prairie forest of the Peruvian Amazon: II. The understory of the sandbar. Found in: Amazon Foliar 10: 151-182.

MEJIA, K.; Medicinal plants of popular use in the Peruvian Amazon.
KVIST, L.P.; ANDERSEN, M.; STAGEGAARD, J.; LLAPAPASCA, C. 2001a. Extraction from woody forest plants in flood plain communities in Amazonian Peru: use, choice, evaluation and conservation status of resources. En: Forest Ecology and Management 5465: 1-28.


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