Socotra Bottle Tree
Socotra Bottle Tree. Socotra is a mysterious world. The island of myths and legends. Its ancient name is translated from Sanskrit as “the land of bliss.” Island is 250 km from Africa and 350 km from the Arabian Peninsula. The island is unique for its flora and fauna. Most species of plants and animals – are endemic, found no where else on Earth . And it is the only place on Earth where there are unique bottle trees.
Socotra is one of the most isolated landforms on Earth of continental origin. The archipelago was once part of the super-continent of Gondwana and detached during the Middle Pliocene (ca 6 million years ago), 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, the three smaller islands of Abd al Kuri, Samhah, and Darsa, and small rock outcrops like Ka’l Fir’awn and Sabuniyah that are uninhabitable by humans but important for birds.
The main island has three geographical terrains: the narrow coastal plains, a limestone plateau permeated with karstic caves, and the Haghier Mountains. The mountains rise to 5,000 feet (1,525 m). The island is a little over 80 miles (130 km) long east to west and typically 18-22 miles (30-35 km) north to south.
The climate is generally tropical desert, with rainfall being light, seasonal (winter) and more abundant at the higher ground in the interior than along the coastal lowlands. The monsoon season brings strong winds and high seas.
Botanists rank the flora of Socotra among the ten most endangered island flora in the world. The archipelago is a site of global importance for biodiversity conservation and a possible center for eco tourism.
One of the most striking of Socotra’s plants is the dragon’s blood tree, which is a strange-looking, umbrella-shaped tree. Its red sap was the dragon’s blood of the ancients, sought after as a medicine and a dye. Another unusual plant is Dorstenia gigas.
As with many isolated island systems, bats are the only mammals native to Socotra. In contrast, the marine biodiversity around Socotra is rich, characterized by a unique mixture of species that have originated in far flung bio-geographic regions: the western Indian Ocean, the Red Sea, Arabia, East Africa and the wider Ind-Pacific.
The island was recognized by the UNESCO as a world natural heritage site in July 2008. The European Union has supported such a move, calling on both UNESCO and International Organization of Protecting Environment to classify the island archipelago among the environmental heritages.
It is believed that some of the plants and animals found on Socotra are in fact ancient relics of a much larger land mass which has all but disappeared. This relic has been preserved here as a result of the fact that the Haghir Massif has not been totally submerged for at least 135 Million years. The absence on any indigenous mammals is reported to be further indication of the island’s very ancient origins, possibly from time before mammals appeared on earth!