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Last Updated: Tuesday, 31 January 2006, 06:34 GMT
Dragon's blood trees come to city
Dragon's blood tree
Dragon's blood trees face being destroyed by developers
Unique dragon's blood and cucumber trees from remote islands in the Indian Ocean are to form the centrepiece of a major exhibition in Edinburgh.

The Royal Botanic Garden event will highlight the plight of the ancient ecosystem on Soqotra archipelago.

Described as the "Galapagos of the Indian Ocean", the islands off Yemen are home to some of the world's richest and best-preserved dry tropical floras.

However, the islands are now in danger from developers.

The four-month exhibition will also explain the leading role that researcher Tony Miller has had in providing the data needed to conserve its globally important biodiversity.

Mr Miller has been studying the archipelago for 20 years.

The islands, boast more than 850 flowering plant species, of which a third are not found anywhere else in the world.

The natives live in basic huts with some even still living in caves
Tony Miller
The Royal Botanic Garden

Mr Miller, who has already helped stop a major road being built on the islands, said: "It takes three days for me to reach these islands by boat as the bad weather often makes it too difficult to reach them by plane.

"It is one of the most fantastic places on earth as it is so untouched, but the problem is that it's getting known and developers want to build hotels to turn it into a holiday destination.

"At the moment when I go there you have to travel by camel everywhere and the natives live in basic huts with some even still living in caves.

"Their traditional ways have helped conserve their plants as well as saving the landscape from being destroyed.

"However, the area must also be conserved, so hopefully this exhibition will help the campaign to save these untouched islands from developers."

Diverse tourist attraction

A VisitScotland spokeswoman said: "This is unique and different for Edinburgh and will offer a wonderful opportunity to showcase such a diverse tourist attraction."

The exhibition, which will also include samples of pottery, clothing, tools and fish knives, runs from 1 July to 31 October.

The dragon's blood tree is an ancient species, which produces bright red resin used in dyes. It forms an umbrella shape and is very slow growing.

It covers hillsides on the islands and still looks like it did when it was common in the Mediterranean 30 million years ago.

The pulp from the cucumber tree is used to feed goats on the islands. It is a very odd looking tree, which has a white swollen trunk.


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