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Frankincense is for life, not just for Christmas
Date:12/10/2012

At this time of year it is hard to escape the Three Wise Men, riding their camels across Christmas cards and appearing in minature form in countless school nativity plays across the world, bearing their gifts for the infant Jesus. Whilst we are all familiar with gold (especialliy in this Olympic year), it is the mention of frankincense and myrrh that really says "Christmas" to us and and takes our imaginations back to ancient times. But you might be surprised to learn that these two fragrances are still big business today; for example, Ethiopia alone trades around 4000 tonnes of frankincense every year. This is all the more remarkable because a single tree from which the resin is harvested will typically yield about 200g per year. The main international trade comes from a tree called Boswellia papyrifera, and Ethiopia is the main exporting country.

Frankincense is harvested by wounding the bark of trees and collecting the resin that is subsequently released from the wound, a process known as tapping. Tapping is carried out at several spots along the stem, using a traditional type of tool that resembles a chisel. The procedure is repeated in 8 tapping rounds during the dry season, which lasts about 8 months. But high demand means that many trees are being over-exploited and populations are at risk of dying out, threatening the livelihoods of villagers who depend on them.

But help may be on hand as the results of a new study by botanists from Ethiopia and the Netherlands led by Motuma Tolera, which could secure a future for the trees by revealing the anatomy of the resin secretory system.

Motuma Tolera explains, "In some areas, the high demand for frankincense is causing over-tapping, which is bad for a couple of reasons. Tapping the tree creates wounds in the stem that take resources to be healed, and more wounds create more opportunities for insects to attack the tree. It's not a surprise that some trees die. This is ba
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Contact: Annals of Botany
ANNALSBOTANY@le.ac.uk
44-011-625-23396
Oxford University Press
Source:Eurekalert

Page: 1 2 3

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