An Alien World – Here on Earth

You don’t have to travel to Cybertron, Arrakis, Vulcan, Naboo, Magrathea, or Pandora (have you heard of these? Head to the end of the article to see how to win a free class!) to see plant-life that seems out-of-this-world. Socotra is an island in the Arabian Sea, off the coast of Yemen, that has been sufficiently evolutionarily isolated so that its endemic plant life is unlike anything on the rest of our planet.

[googlemap id=”Socotra” zoom=”4″ latitude=”12.476386″ longitude=”53.815155″ message=”We are here” width=”620″ height=”400″]


One of the most iconic Socotran natives is the dragon’s blood tree (below), so named because of its thick red sap.

Dragons Blood Tree

Bottle TreeThe bottle tree (left), also known as the Socotra desert rose, with it’s amusingly swollen trunk often seems to grow directly out of the rock. Jan Vandorpe has some truly amazing photos of bottle trees and others on his Flickr stream.

Another tree found on the island is the Socotran frankincence (pictured below). That’s right: frankincense of the Three Kings fame. This species is found only on Socotra, but other species of Boswelia can be found throughout tropical regions of Africa and India.


frankincense resinFrankincense is a resin which is harvested by slashing the bark of the tree through which resin flows and hardens. The resulting “tears”, which are pictured on the right, are used in perfumes and incenses.

Due to the uniqueness of life on this amazing island, UNESCO named it a World Natural Heritage site in July of 2008.

Finally, here are some more photos of Socotra, courtesy of Fotopedia.

[llfotopedia gallery=”Socotra”]
Now for the prize: if you’d like a free ticket to one of our classes, comment on our Facebook post about this blog post, telling us which movies those planets mentioned earlier are from. Then tell us which of those movies was your favourite and why. We will pick our favourite answer!

The photos in this entry are all borrowed and edited, with thanks, under Creative Commons Licenses:

Cover Photo (dragon’s blood trees) courtesy of Hope Hill.
Dragon’s blood tree courtesy of Rod Waddington.
Bottle tree courtesy of Rod Waddington.
Socotran frankincense courtesy of Rod Waddington.
Frankincense resin courtesy of Peter Presslein.