Minimum separation between

the cuts

30 cm

THE TREE AND ITS GIFT

Frankincense, also called olibanum, is an aromatic resin used in incense and perfume. It is obtained by cutting the tree’s bark of the genus Boswellia which grows in Arabia, Africa and South Asia. The English word is derived from Old French franc encens (high quality incense). Many centuries ago, a huge enterprise of caravan was established along the Arabian peninsula when the Mediterranean civilizations discovered and fell captivated by its aroma. Soon this commodity became even more expensive than gold, and up until petroleum was discoverd in Arabia. Many experts agree that the best kind of frankincense is produced by the species which are native in Oman.

Click on the yellow line to see details of the incisions

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Vascular system of the tree

Burseraceae trees are characterized by resins that are present within the plant tissue from the resin ducts in the bark. The reason why a plant or a tree produces saps or resins is it serves as a defence mechanism to seal off its injury, to prevent desiccation, and to protect against insect and fungal attacks, as well as decay.

Axial resin canals

Radial resin canals

Tapping

According to studies, wounds are made on the eastern and western sides of the tree to allow sufficient exposure to sunlight for quick drying of the resin. However on bigger trees, they are on the sides where they do most of the tapping.

Cutting tool

Al manqaf is a unique iron knife which the Dhofari frankincense harvester used to tap or peel the bark:

Blade

Wooden

handle

Optional

blade

7cm

7cm

20cm

Fresh wound

Shapes of nugget

In Oman, frankincense is distributed in markets as solidified resin pieces which usually range in size from one to five centimetres and are sold in bulk and by weight. Each resin comes in a variety of shapes, but the most common appearance is like a drop or a tear

 

Globular

Actual size compared with a AA battery

Nail

shape

Pear

shape

 

Stalactitic

Medium size frankincense nuggets

As soon an incision is made, the sap begins to surface. The optimal size of tapping must not exceed a surface of 12 sq cm.

The reason why a plant or a tree produces saps or resins is it serves as a defence mechanism to seal off its injury, to prevent desiccation, and to protect against insect and fungal attacks, as well as decay.

Species

The Burseraceae is a family of trees or shrubs characterized by the peeling or flaking aromatic bark and the resin present within the plant tissue. The resin from many species in this family is being used as incense. There are two prominent genuses in the Burseraceae family: the Boswellia (its resin is called frankincense) and the Commiphora (its resin is myrrh).

BURSERACEAE

645 species

PROTIEAE

96 species

COMMIPHORA

222 species

BURSERA

120 species

GARUGA

5 species

MINOR GRADE OR

NOT FRANKINCENSE

26 species

MINOR GRADE MYRRH

4 species

MYRHH

FRANKINCENSE

Commiphora

serrulata

Commiphora

playfairii

Commiphora

abyssinica

Commiphora myrrha

Sudan, Somalia, Djibouti,

Ethiopia,  Kenya, Yemen

& Oman

Commiphora

foliacea

The genus Commiphora encompasses 222 different species of trees, from which only five produce a resin, but only one single specie is considered as ‘true myrrh’.

The resin considered as frankincense is produced by all 30 species in the Boswellia genus but only four are considered the ‘true frankincense producers’, the other 26 species produce resin with lesser compounds that characterizes its distinctive aroma.

TRUE MYRRH

1 species

TRUE FRANKINCENSE

4 species

Boswellia papyrifera

Ethiopia, Eritrea,

Uganda & Sudan

Boswellia serrata

India

Boswellia frereana

Somalia

Boswellia sacra

Oman, Yemen

& Somalia

AUCOUMEA

1 specie

BEISELIA

1 specie

BOSWELLIA

30 species

BURSERINAE

342 species

BOSWELLIINAE

37 species

CANARIEAE

170 species

SUBTRIBE

GENUS

SPECIES

FAMILY

Geographic distribution

Burceraceae family

The Burceraceae family grows in the tropical regions of all the continents but its genus Boswellia is constrained to Africa and Asia.

North America

Southeast

Asia

South America

Mesoamerica

Caribbean

Ecuator

Asia

Australia

Tropical

zone

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