dragon's blood, name for a red resin obtained from a number of different plants. It was held by early Greeks, Romans, and Arabs to have medicinal properties; Dioscorides and other early writers described it. A chief source was Dracaena cinnabari, a tree of the agave family. Voyagers to the Canary Islands in the 15th cent. obtained it from another species, D. draco. The resin, exuding beautiful garnet-colored drops when the tree is wounded, was well known as the source of varnish for 18th-century Italian violinmakers. Later, dragon's-blood varnishes and medicines were obtained chiefly from the immature fruits of a palm ( Daemonorops draco ) native to Malaya. Although still sometimes used in photoengraving processes, dragon's blood as a coloring material has largely been replaced by synthetics.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.