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The Alien World of Socotra Island: Home to Bizarre Bloody Trees and More Endangered Flora

Apr 14, 2017 10:27 AM EDT
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The 20-million-year-old trees look straight out of a science fiction film, but the landscape of certain parts of Socotra is so unique and bizarre that it's no wonder that such strange-looking trees sprouted from this ground.

Socotra Archipelago, considered part of Yemen on the Arabian Peninsula, is dubbed the Galapagos of the Indian Ocean due to its spectacular biodiversity, according to a report from Metro.

Its main island is also called Socotra, which is known to be so remote that a third of its plant species are found nowhere else on Earth. Botanists revealed that Socotra's flora are among the ten most endangered in the world.

There are many unusual flora dotting the 3,600-square-kilometer island, but none more eye-catching than the endemic dragon's blood tree with its distinct alien shape. According to a report from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the dragon's blood tree, which has been around for 20 million years, bleeds a dark red resin that lent the plant its iconic name.

The blood-like liquid, which seeps out of the tree when it's cut, was used for medical purposes in the early Greek, Roman and Arab civilizations. Later in the 1700s, Italians used the it as a dye to stain wood for violins. Nowadays, its still occasionally sought for special photographic purposes.

Another unique tree found in this island is the Adenium socotranum, which is described by Atlas Obscura as "elephants' legs with pink flowers on top."

Several rare birds are endemic to Socotra such as Socotra starling, Socotra sunbird, and Socotra grosbeak. There are no mammals native to the island except for bats.

According to a 2008 report from the New York Times, a team of biologists conducted a survey of the island's flora and fauna in the 1990s and discovered that there were nearly 700 endemic species in the area. Unlike Galapagos though, Socotra has been inhabited for the past 2,000 or so years. Over 40,000 people live here, most of whom are fishermen and herders.

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