Rus Articles Journal

The monastery of grace

at the beginning of 1880 the first research British expedition headed by professor Isaak Balfour arrived the island of Socotra. Scientists intended to collect collections of rocks of animals and plants. Results of botanical researches turned out stunning: in 48 days on Socotra found more than 200 species of plants unknown to science which part belonged to 20 new childbirth. Since then behind the island the glory of botanical paradise was strongly approved, its began to call “Galapagosami of the Indian Ocean“.

Socotra - the largest of islands of the archipelago of the same name located in North - the western part of the Indian Ocean. It is a part of the Republic Yemen. Its extent from the West on the East of 120 km, and width does not exceed 40. Internal regions of Socotra gorist. The plateaux which are cut up by deep valleys in places have flat descents to the stony coastal valleys bordered with white sandy beaches, and places - abruptly break in the sea.

On one of versions, the name “Socotra“ goes back the roots to drevnesanskritsky expression “Monastery of grace“ which was well known by seafarers of antiquity: the island is successfully located at the intersection of the maritime routes connecting ports of the Persian Gulf and India with East Africa and Aden. Here waited storm weather, resupplied fresh water and the food, exchanged goods and news. But, most likely, the name to the island was given by Arabs, and it means no other than “The market of draconian blood“. Draconian blood called krovavo - the red pitch acting on trunks of some types of treelike dragon trees or draconian trees. One of them - a dragon tree kinovarno - red - grows on Socotra. Throughout centuries made art paints and a color varnish of this pitch. The fact that red color to pitch is given by resistant and bright pigments drakorubin and drakokarmin is established by experts long ago, but their biological value still remains a riddle.


trees are ancient relic plants, 20 million years ago their area covered huge spaces from Madeira, Somalia and Ethiopia to the southern borders of Russia, but only its tiny parts removed on thousands of kilometers from each other remained up to now. The closest relative of a sokotransky look grows on the Canary Islands of the Atlantic Ocean - it is Dracaena draco tree “bleeding“ drakonovo, but it is possible to see it generally in artificial plantings there. On Socotra dragon trees kinovarno - red, with the massive cone-shaped trunks topped with the dense kroner reminding the umbrellas which are turned out by wind are still quite usual in mountains higher than 300 m above sea level.

Not smaller popularity to the island were brought by trees of family burzerovy - bosvelliya and kommifor, - whose bark at damage exhales viscous drops of the pitch saturated with essential oils. From pitch of bosvelliya produced one of the most demanded since the time of priests of Ancient Egypt and Babylon aroma - an incense, and from pitch a kommifor - to myrrh, widely applied in medicine and when embalming the dead. On this island at least 8 endemic types of bosvelliya (and the last look was described only in 2002) and 3 - 4 look a kommifor grow. Socotra is famous for one more curative plant - an aloe which juice sokotranets dried up and turned into the legendary sabr healing wounds and helping at many diseases.

in the absence of natural enemies

On the island many plants striking with the funny shape are.“ The lower parts of slopes are covered with zhabopodobny cucumber trees. Their gray trunks which inflated from lacteal juice resemble elephant legs and are topped with a rare bang from rigid wrinkled leaves. These trees blossom small yellow flowers and bear small useless fruits - probably, I should call them cucumbers“ - the famous botanist Douglas Botting so described the impressions of acquaintance with dendrositsiosy sokotransky - the only tree in extensive family pumpkin which all other members - lianoobrazny grassy plants. One more botanical wonder of Socotra - a dorsteniye huge (Dorstenia gigas). The majority of types of dorsteniye - inhabitants of damp rainforests, and only units from them managed to develop droughty places, having turned into tiny stem succulents whose sizes seem even less because that their fleshy stalk is almost completely shipped in the soil. Dorsteniya Sokotra, justifying the specific name, grows to the sizes of a low tree with the inflated trunk on which top the plume of lanceolate leaves flaunts. In the list of island plants - overages long time also the bush of a dirakhm reaching 4 m in height was registered sokotransky (Dirachma socotrana) as systematization carried it to family geranaceous among which even low semi-bushes - a big rarity. But now dirakhmovy are allocated in the separate small family containing only two species of plants, one of which grows on Sokotra, and recently found the second to Somalia.

It is yet not quite clear to

why isolation time leads to giantism among animals and plants. Let`s remember huge overland turtles of Galapagos Islands, not related to them, but so huge turtles of Aldabra, monitor lizards of the island of Komodo, the treelike groundsels and the reaching 2 m in lobelia height growing at the snow line of mountains of East Africa. Perhaps, in a case with Sokotra lack of large herbivores was a decisive factor. That is why many plants on the island are deprived of sharp prickles, and fabrics them do not contain toxic agents. The goats who are grazed here now, cows, donkeys and camels were delivered by people hundreds years ago.

treats very curious representatives of sokotransky flora and adenium corpulent, belonging besides to family kutrovy, as well as an oleander and the barvinok well familiar to us but strikingly different from the graceful relatives pronounced succulent shape. Fancifully bent trunk of this tree serves as the tank for storage of the moisture spent in a droughty season. With a height up to 3,5 m it sometimes has a diameter of 2 m. During blossoming its thick branches - stumps suddenly become covered gentle brightly - red flowers. From - for abilities to such wonderful transformation British call adenium “a desert rose“.

the African splinter Telling


about representatives of island flora, constantly it is necessary to use the word “endemic“ meaning that distribution of this plant is strictly limited to the island. Really, according to the latest data, on Sokotra more than 850 species of plants from which about 270 types grow only there grow. On endemizm level Sokotra enters ten the richest islands on the planet.

the lawful question Arises: why so invaluable floristic wealth was concentrated on this piece of sushi? The answer is covered in geological history of the archipelago. Sokotra broke away from the African lithospheric plate about 40 million. years back, approximately at the same time when the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden lay between Africa and Arabian Peninsula. The islands of the archipelago which are nowadays divided by sea shoal made a whole earlier, and the wildlife of this big land was rich initially and therefore that there passed the border of three biogeographical regions and therefore that hot, droughty plains adjoined to the mountains which are wrapped up with fogs. The destiny was favorable to Sokotra. The analysis of the rocks composing the island incontestably demonstrates that at changes of global sea level its considerable part remained afloat and was never flooded with the sea. It is undoubted that many species of plants of Sokotra are a miracle the splinters of the ancient florae which disappeared on the continent escaped in the conditions of island existence. Scientists call such types relic endemics, or paleoendemika, unlike neoendemics - the relatively young types which resulted from evolution of predkovy forms, but did not manage to be settled widely. Of course, between two categories of endemics there can be also set of transitional forms. The analysis of modern distribution of relic endemics - one of the most fascinating problems of biogeography allowing to glance in the remote past of Earth. So, existence of closely related types of treelike dragon trees on Sokotra and on the Canary Islands proves that at the time of blossoming of this taxon those and other islands were a part of one land - the African continent.

Sokotra`s Future

To the middle of the 20th century visited the island many scientific expeditions, but when in 1967 - m Yemen gained independence, and on Sokotra located voyenno - the sea USSR base, the island was closed for visit by foreigners. The international researches with participation of the Yemen side were resumed only in 1982 and continue to this day, bringing interesting opening. Even the botanists much working on Sokotra find all new species of plants. Are a little investigated island fauna and its communications with faunae of Africa and Arabian Peninsula. On the island hundreds of types of arthropods, tens of species of fish and reptiles, and it only the beginning of zoological researches are found. Quite recently here caught a shrew, perhaps, belonging to a look unknown to science. Also the fauna surrounding Sokotra of the sea, and the world of karst caves waits for the researchers. This year found a cave 7 km long here - the most extensive for all Middle East.

Sokotra by right is considered the most untouched of manned islands with arid climate. And it is one more riddle, the answer to which look for biologists together with ethnographers, involving experience of supervision and knowledge of sokotranets of the island nature in the researches. It turned out that aboriginals of the archipelago which even from - for gales nearly half a year is cut off today from the outside world realized long ago that their life and welfare completely depend on safety of a natural environment. Therefore throughout centuries it was forbidden to cut live trees and bushes here, the cattle was grazed, regularly replacing pastures not to allow their exhaustion. Behind observance of system of these rules and bans, many of which found reflection in beliefs and folklore of islanders, elders of tribes strictly watched.

What waits for Monastery of grace in the future? Whether this name will be also actual for it?

Further life of the island in many respects depends on the help of the international community, on that, how fast will give it the status of especially protected territory and will bring in number of UNESCO Natural World Heritage Sites that is planned for the next years.