Bursera fagaroides (2011)

PhotoBy Ann Grace (January 2011)

At the November meeting, I was very lucky to win the specimen plant, a large Bursera fagaroides. This type of plant is entirely new for me, and I have enjoyed learning about it.

Bursera fagaroides grows naturally in the Sonoran Desert in northwest Mexico, the Baja region of California and southern Arizona, where it is now protected.

A characteristic of this and other members of the Burserceae family is the fragrance of the leaves and resins, which are used in making scented candles and incense. This is the reason for its popular name, Mexican frankincense.

With its stout caudex for water storage, it is well adapted to arid conditions and thrives with full sun and high temperatures in summer. Although it can tolerate prolonged drought, it benefits from ample watering in the summer.

In autumn, when temperatures drop, it naturally becomes dormant and drops its leaves. In the winter, B. fagaroides is best maintained in a location where the temperature hovers in the 50s. At this time, it just needs enough light watering to keep the roots vital.

Several articles explain that while a potted Bursera fagaroides can be kept in leaf throughout the year with regular watering, ample light and warmth, it actually benefits from a period of dormancy by having more vigorous growth and abundant flowering in the summer.

The growth form – with its stubby caudex, fewer medium-size branches and many thin branches – can be pruned and trained into an artistic bonsai creation. You can be sure that my shaggy new Bursera fagaroides will be present and ready at the meeting when Susan Amoy returns.