Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Word on Dragon's Blood Sedum

I mentioned in a blog this spring
that according to the Chinese zodiac, 
late January 2012 to early February 2013 is the year of the dragon.
And in Chinese culture, dragons are powerful, benevolent and fantastic beasts, 
full of good luck and happy surprises.
 I've had some lovely surprises this dragon year, and some not so lovely. 
I suspect we could say the same about any year we live through,
but it is fun to imagine that occasionally a year holds a little extra magic.

The reason I thought about the year of the dragon again 
was that this week when I was walking my pomp of pekingese ;-) 
I noticed my neighbor's dragon's blood sedum (stonecrop) in bloom.
This stonecrop's rich red color is a favorite of mine for fall.

Additionally, I find the name "stonecrop" appealing for some reason. 
Sedum grows well in rock gardens, which easily explains the word "stone,"
but "crop" is less evident. 
In its oldest sense, stonecrop appears to be a metaphor
for the red crop of a hen or other fowl. 
According to the Oxford English Dictionary,
Old English "crop" had two meanings: 
the crop of a bird and the rounded head of an herb or plant.
Both connote swelling or protuberance, 
and that meaning can be traced back to 
Old Low German crop and Old Norse kroppr.

So with the linguistic mystery solved,
I'm left to ponder why the name "Dragon's Blood."
I'm guessing it's because stonecrop's red color 
is imitative of the resin called dragon's blood.
This comes from the Dragon Tree of  Socotra Island  in the Indian Ocean.

 A cited entry says the tree was first named pterocarpus draco
as part of the tropical genus pterocarpus
a genus known for its deep red wood and large, winged fruit.
So adding dragon to the name makes sense.
But in 1880, Scottish botanist Isaac Bayley Balfour 
re-named it dracaena cinnabari.
Perhaps Balfour thought the previous name wasn't fantastic enough  
to describe a blood red tree with wings on its fruit.
Or maybe it's because 1880 was also the year of the dragon,
 a year that calls for just a little extra magic.

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