Bursera hindsiana (2014)

PhotoBy Wayne Erickson (November 2014)

The genus Bursera, a caudiciform, was named after a botanist from Denmark by the name of Joachim Burser, who lived from 1583 to 1639. The Bursera genus has over 100 species from small shrubs to tree forms 10.5 feet tall.

Burseras are found from the southwestern United States to northern Argentina. They live in warm, tropical forest habitat and prefer full sun and well-drained soil.

Bursera hindsiana was named by Townshead Stith Brandegee in 1891. The distinguishing attributes for Hindsiana are its reddish stems and trunk, which age out to a light gray color. Hence, its common name is red elephant tree.

In contrast to the peeling bark of B. fagaroides and B. odorata, this plant has smooth bark. The leaves are smaller and scalloped with a slight fuzzy look. In native habitat, they bloom in September through December with tiny greenish-yellow flowers. Here in the Midwest, they are summer growers. Being deciduous, they lose their leaves during the winter months.

Can you believe it’s already November? Christmas is just around the corner. Going back to early Biblical days, the wise men bore gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. So what does this mean for a cactus and succulent society?

Bursera boswellia was known as frankincense, and the related commiphora was known as myrrh. Burseras also contributed aromatic tree resin, which was used in incense. As holy oil, myrrh was used to anoint the tabernacle, high priests and kings. The resin was highly sought, creating a wealthy commodity. This is just a part of the history behind this plant family. Very interesting to read about.