Socotra Island, Jewel of Biodiversity

Socotra Island, Yemen, is perhaps as close to an alien world as it is possible to get. Over thirty percent of the plant species found here are found nowhere else in the world and are perfectly adapted to life here.

Socotra was a part of the supercontinent Gondwana and broke away during the Miocene era, at the same time that the gulf of Aden opened up (about 16 million years ago) so it is possible that it gives us a glimpse into the prehistoric past.

There are many unfamiliar plants found on Socotra, the cucumber tree with its massive bulbous base is one but perhaps the most celebrated is the ‘Dragon’s Blood Tree’ whose red sap was thought to dragons blood by the ancient peoples of the region. It was a highly prized natural dye and is still used today in paints and varnishes!

The Island has been inhabited for at least two thousand years and that has taken its toll on the biodiversity, with many species being lost.

Taught science for 16 years at a secondary school in the East Midlands.