Think of Socotra island as the hidden kingdom that time forgot, literally. Ever since the trade of the island’s “Dragon Tree” sap stopped abruptly 2,000-years ago, the island has peacefully aged, and contains many endangered plants that many have only seen in books or movies. Continue reading for a video, more pictures, and additional information.
Socotra is one of the most isolated landforms on Earth of continental origin (i.e. not of volcanic origin). The archipelago was once part of the supercontinent of Gondwana and detached during the Miocene, in the same set of rifting events that opened the Gulf of Aden to its northwest. The archipelago consists of the main island of Socotra (3,665 km2 (1,415 sq mi)), the three smaller islands of Abd al Kuri, Samhah and Darsa and small rock outcrops like Ka’l Fir’awn and Sābūnīyah that are uninhabitable by humans but important for seabirds.
Socotra is considered the jewel of biodiversity in the Arabian Sea. The long geological isolation of the Socotra archipelago and its fierce heat and drought have combined to create a unique and spectacular endemic flora. Botanical field surveys led by the Centre for Middle Eastern Plants (part of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh) indicate that 307 out of the 825 (37%) plant species on Socotra are endemic, i.e., they are found nowhere else on Earth. The entire flora of the Socotra Archipelago has been assessed for the IUCN Red List, with 3 Critically Endangered and 27 Endangered plant species currently recognised.