Boswellia serrata: A Bit of Botany
a little botanical information about boswellia serrata

Boswellia serrata is a moderate to large sized branching tree of family Burseraceae. It is a moderate-sized to large, deciduous tree with a light, spreading crown and somewhat drooping branches. It usually has a short bole, 3-5 m in height, sometimes can be more taller, if grown in a fully stocked forest. Ordinarily, it attains a girth of 1.2-1.8 m and a height of 9-15 m. Bark is very thin, grayish-green, ashy or reddish in color with a chlorophyll layer beneath the thin outer layer, which peels off in thin, papery flakes.

Leaves are alternate, exstipulate, imparipinnate, 20-45 cm in length, crowded towards the ends of the branches; leaflets 17-31 cm, opposite, 2.5-8 cm x 0.8-1.5 cm, basal pairs often smallest, sessile, lanceolate or ovate-lanceolate, crenate, very variable in size. Flowers are white, born in stout racemes 10-20 cm long, shorter than the leaves, crowded towards the ends of branches, but not terminal. Calyx persistent, pubescent outside, 5 to 7-toothed; teeth small, deltoid. Petals 5-7, erect, free, 0.5 cm long. Fruits 1.3 cm long, trigonous, with three valves and three heart shaped, 1-seeded pyrenes, winged, along the margins.

Oleo gum-resin is tapped from an incision made on the trunk of the tree. The bark yields gum of acceptable quality after 8 years. A mature tree yields about 1-1.5 kg of gum a year.

common names & nomenclature
The generic name Boswellia is given after Dr. James Boswell of Edinbergh Botanical Garden and friend of William Roxburgh, Director of Indian Botanical Garden, Calcutta. The specific name, serrata, comes from serra (a saw) referring to the toothed leaf margins.

Also known as:
indian frankincense tree, indian olibanum, kundur, salai guggal,guggul, salakhi, and in sanskrit, shallaki, boswellin

Boswellia Serrata, the Indian frankincense
Boswellia serrata: Where in the World
habitat and range for boswellia serrata

Indian frankincense grows in dry mountainous regions of India, Northern Africa and Middle East.

Boswellia serrata: Cultivation & Harvesting
considerations for growing boswellia serrata

Boswellia serrata grows in the tropical dry deciduous forests and occurs in very dry teak forests or in dry mixed deciduous forests.

Prefers rich fertile soils but can tolerate dry soil conditions.

The seeds should be soaked in water before they are sown, to separate out the sterile pyrenes, which float on the surface. Seed germination takes between 7 and 15 days. Boswellia serrata can survive and sprout from large branch or stem cuttings.

Oleo gum-resin is tapped from an incision made on the trunk of the tree and is then stored in bamboo baskets to remove the oil content and to get the resin solidified. After processing, the gum-resin is then broken into smaller pieces with a mallet, graded according to its flavor, color, shape and size.

Store in a cool, dry place away from heat and sunlight.

Boswellia serrata: The Rest of the Story
boswellia serrata history, folklore, literature & more

Boswellia serrata is a moderate-sized deciduous tree that is found in the dry, mountainous areas of central India. Because there are many different species of frankincense (Boswellia spp.), B. serrata is more precisely referred to as Indian frankincense. Used alone and without precision, the word frankincense usually refers to B. carterii, which is found in southern arabia.

There are numerous active constituents in the gum resin of B. serrate. It contains the fatty acids palmitic, stearic, oleic, and linoleic. It also contains the sugars glucose, arabinose, rhamnose, galactose, fructose, glucuronic acid, and idose. The gum resin also contains triterpene alcohol, serratol, and triterpenoids. The volatile oil contains p-cymene, d-limonene, terpinolene, bornyl acetates, and methylchavicol.