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The Surreal Island Filled with Strangely Beautiful Plants

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In a tiny archipelago of islands in the Indian Ocean near the Aden Gulf lies a little island filled with plants you won’t believe are real. 250km off the coast of Somalia and 340km off the coast of Yemen is Socotra Island, home to some of the world’s strangest looking plants.

It's like being in a fairytale island…

It's like being in a fairytale island...

With limestone caves, tall mountains…

With huge beaches, limestone caves, and tall mountains.

And big, beautiful beaches.

And big, beautiful beaches.

Socotra is home to 825 species of plants that you won’t find anywhere else in the world. And alongside those plants are reptile and land snail species that you’ll only find in the place. It also has 253 unique and distinctive species of reef-building corals; 300 different species of crab, shrimp and lobster; and 730 species of coastal fish. In fact, up to 90% of the plants and animals in Socotra can’t be found anywhere else on earth.

And while Socotra is filled with beautiful plants…

And while Socotra is filled with beautiful plants...

Socotra also has numerous endemic species of animals such as snails.

Socotra also has numerous endemic species of animals such as snails.

Source: SS

One of Socotra’s most striking plants is the dragon’s blood tree or Dracaena Cinnabari, which is an umbrella-shaped tree with red sap that was believed to be dragon’s blood. This sap would be used as a dye, and today as paint and varnish. Aside from looking surreal and marvelous, some of Socotra’s plants were also used for medicine and for cosmetics.

This umbrella-like tree is called the Dragon's Blood Tree because of its red sap.

This umbrella-like tree is called the Dragon's Blood Tree because of its red sap.

The sap of the dragon tree is used for dyes, paints, and varnish.

The sap of the dragon tree is used for dyes, paints, and varnish.

Source: Wikimedia

So why are Socotra’s plants and animals endemic only to the island? It’s because Socotra has been separated from mainland Africa for six to seven million years. With its wide sandy beaches, limestone caves, and huge, towering mountains, Socotra’s ecosystem has been largely independent from that of the mainland, thus the strange species within.

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