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Boswellia sacra
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Rosids
Order: Sapindales
Family: Burseraceae
Genus: Boswellia
Species: B. sacra
Binomial name
Boswellia sacra
Flueck.[1]
Synonyms

B. carterii
B. thurifera

Boswellia sacra is a tree in the Burseraceae family. It is the primary tree in the genus Boswellia from which frankincense, a resinous dried sap, is derived. Some literature identifies B. sacra as growing in Oman and Yemen, and B. carterii as growing in Somalia. The latest scientific opinion is that these are both the same species and should correctly be called B. sacra.[citation needed]

This species of Boswellia is a small deciduous tree, which reaches a height of 2 to 8 meters, with one or more trunks. Its bark has the texture of paper and can be removed easily. It has compound leaves and an odd number of leaflets, which grow opposite to one another along its branches. Its tiny flowers, a yellowish white, are gathered in axillary clusters composed of five petals, ten stamens and a cup with five teeth. The fruit is a capsule about 1 cm long. The new leaves are covered with a fine down.

Individual trees growing on steep slopes develop a stump in the form of a cushion at the base of the stem that adheres to the rock and ensures a certain stability.

This tree is grown, too, in the dry regions of north-east Africa and south of the Arabian peninsula. The tree tolerates the most critical situations and is often on rocky slopes and ravines up to an altitude of 1,200 m. Prefers calcareous soil.

The trees start producing resin when they are about 8 to 10 years old.[2]

The resin is extracted by making a small, shallow incision on the trunk or branches of the tree or by removing a portion of the crust of it. The resin is drained as a milky substance that coagulates in contact with air and is collected by hand.

Growing conditions vary significantly, affecting both tree development and resin produced. Trees in the narrow fog-laden zone where the desert meets Oman's southern mountain range, a region known as the Nejd, grow extremely slowly and produce very high quality resin in large, white clumps. Not surprisingly, Omanis and other Gulf State Arabs consider this to be superior to all other resins produced in North and Northeast Africa, India, and Asia, and it is priced accordingly.[citation needed]

Recent studies have indicated that frankincense tree populations are declining due to over-exploitation. Heavily tapped trees have been found to produce seeds that germinate at only 16% while seeds of trees that had not been tapped germinate at more than 80%.

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