Dracaena reflexa var. angustifolia (Syn. D. marginata)-Dragon Tree

Dracaena reflexa var. angustifolia on 4-18-12, #87-7.

Dragon Tree

Dracaena reflexa var. angustifolia

dra-SEE-Nah an-gus-tee-FOH-lee-uh


Dracaena marginata

dra-SEE-Nah mar-jen-AY-tuh

Dracaena reflexa var. angustifolia Baker is the correct and accepted infraspecific name for this plant. It was named and described as such by John Gilbert Baker in Journal of the Linnean Society in 1875. 

Dracaena reflexa Lam. is the correct and accepted scientific name of this species. It was named and described by Jean-Baptiste Pierre Antoine de Monet de Lamarck in Encyclopedie Methodique in 1786. The synonym, Dracaena marginata, was also named by Mr. Lamarck…  

Plants of the World Online by Kew lists the scientific name of the genus as Dracaena Vand. ex L.. The Link to the International Plant Names Index (IPNI) says Dracaena Vand. Tropicos list the genus as Dracaena L. Actually, Domingo Vandelli named the genus Draco. Carl von Linnaeus renamed the genus Dracaena and described it as such in Mantissa Plantarum in 1767. The Biodiversity Heritage Library explains Mantissa Plantarum was originally published as an appendix to volume 2 of the 12 edition of Systema Naturae 1767. The second Mantissa Plantarum was published separately in 1771.

Plants of the World Online by Kew lists 105 species in the Dracaena genus (as of 11-4-18 when this page was updated.


Dracaena reflexa var. angustifolia at 45″ tall on 7-2-12, #105-5.

Let’s begin with the photo above. Suzanne, the lady I worked for in Mississippi who passed away (which is a completely different story) bought several plants from Lowe’s in 2009 before she passed. Two of those plants were Dracaena but the label did not indicate what species. I feel like going to Lowe’s right now to see if they have any of these plants to check the label.


This is the plant labeled Dracaena marginata ‘bi-color’ with the tri-colored leaves. This photo was taken on 8-25-12, #116-22.

Then in 2012, I bought two other plants that were labeled Dracaena marginata ‘Marginata’ and Dracaena marginata ‘bi-color’. I know that’s what they said because that is the way the photos are labeled that I uploaded in 2012. When I did my initial research, I thought they should have been a ‘bi-color’ and ‘tri-color’. It has been several years, so I cannot even pretend to know where I came up with that assumption, but undoubtedly it was something online. But, for the record, the one labeled ‘Marginata’ has bi-color leaves and many websites call it by several names. The one labeled ‘bi-color’ actually has tri-colored leaves and it is online as ’tri-color’.


This is the plant labeled Dracaena marginata ‘Marginata’ with bi-color leaves. This photo was taken on 8-25-12 when I bought them. #116-23.

OH, I need to point out the two older plants have solid green leaves. Most information online talks about plants with red edges. That’s what confused me a little. Also, the leaves on the older plants are much shorter than the last two I bought. So, tell me, are they the same species or what? I didn’t think so at first because of the leaves.

As I am writing this page on January 9-10, 2018, I had to do some more thorough research about the names. SO, let’s begin…

Since The Plant List is no longer maintained, I have been using Plants of the World Online by Kew (Royal Botanical Garden). This is a fairly new site and they are still uploading data but usually I have pretty good success. This time was a different story though. They do not list Dracaena marginata as an accepted species or even as a synonym for another species. So, I had to refer to The Plant List.

The 2013 version of The Plant List says that Dracaena marginata hort. is an accepted name. The name “hort.” after the name means it was created in the horticulture industry and does not appear in nature. It also states Dracaena marginata Lam. is a synonym of Dracaena reflexa var. angustifolia Baker. That name was described by John Gilbert Baker in the Journal of the Linnean Society in 1875.

When I did name research through Tropicos, it says Dracaena marginata hort. is for horticulture use. It said and said Dracaena marginata Lam. is the correct name as described by Jean Baptiste Antoine Pierre de Monnet de Lamarck in Encyclopédie Méthodique, Botanique in 1786.

The Missouri Botanical Garden has a page for the Dracaena marginata but it doesn’t mention any authors name. I guess they accept Dracaena marginata Lam. since they say it originates in Madagascar. Besides, Tropicos belongs to the Missouri Botanical Garden. The photo of the plant on their article resembles the two older plants I had but its leaves have red edges.

This is the plant labeled Dracaena marginata ‘Marginata’ on 2-17-13, #139-30.

Then I got to wondering what the World Checklist of Selected Plant Families (WCSP), also by Kew, had to say about the name. Remember what I said earlier about Plants of the World Online? It is a new site by Kew that is still uploading data but it lists 116 accepted species. I typed in Dracaena on WCSP and came up with a WHOPPING 483 records (both accepted names and synonyms). I scrolled down to Dracaena marginata and it says that name is a synonym of Dracaena reflexa var.angustifolia.

So, do I go with the Missouri Botanical Garden and Tropicos and say these plants are Dracaena marginata?  Or do I agree with the World Checklist of Selected Plant Families and the Royal Botanic Garden and say it is Dracaena reflexa var. angustifolia? It still doesn’t solve the issue with the two older plants having smaller, solid green leaves. Forget online photos because most of them lead to red margined plants that say they are Dracaena marginata and are not up to date sites.


This is the plant labeled Dracaena marginata ‘bi-color’ with tri-colored leaves on 2-17-13, #139-31.

When many people buy small cute plants at the garden center they don’t realize what they can become. Dracaena are definitely one of those plants. After a while, those cute little plants become trees and can look somewhat strange. The leaves growing along the stem (or trunk) will fall off leaving a slender stem with a tuft of leaves at the top.

Family: Asparagaceae
Origin: Madagascar
Zones: USDA Zones 10-12 
Size: Up to 6’ or even 20’
Light: Part shade
Soil: Well-drained soil
Water: Medium
Uses: Potted plant where not hardy.

Maybe in time the APG group will do a polygenetic test on this species and find out what it really is. Maybe they already have and I haven’t found out… The Wikipedia DOES NOT have an article on Dracaena marginata… Somewhere lies the truth. 🙂

I gave up my Dracaena to a good friend and fellow plant collector when I moved back to the family farm in mid-Missouri in 2013. Maybe someday I will buy a few more. They do make nice plants, especially when they are small, that can grow into large specimens. They aren’t for everyone, though, and some may think they are ugly when they are larger. Like my grandmother always said, “to each his own.”

I hope you found this page useful or maybe a little confusing. If you have any comments, questions or suggestions, I would like to hear from you. If you can’t think of anything to say, please leave a “like” so I will know you visited this page.



2 comments on “Dracaena reflexa var. angustifolia (Syn. D. marginata)-Dragon Tree

  1. Beautiful plants!!!


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