Journal Article

Resin secretory structures of <i>Boswellia papyrifera</i> and implications for frankincense yield

Motuma Tolera, David Menger, Ute Sass-Klaassen, Frank J. Sterck, Paul Copini and Frans Bongers

in Annals of Botany

Published on behalf of The Annals of Botany Company

Volume 111, issue 1, pages 61-68
Published in print January 2013 | ISSN: 0305-7364
Published online December 2012 | e-ISSN: 1095-8290 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/aob/mcs236
Resin secretory structures of Boswellia papyrifera and implications for frankincense yield

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  • Ecology and Conservation
  • Evolutionary Biology
  • Plant Sciences and Forestry

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Background and Aims

Frankincense, a gum-resin, has been tapped from Boswellia papyrifera trees for centuries. Despite the intensive tapping and economic interest of B. papyrifera, information on the resin secretory structures, which are responsible for synthesis, storage and transport of frankincense, is virtually absent. This study describes the type, architecture and distribution of resin secretory structures of B. papyrifera and its relevance for the ecophysiology and economic use of the tree.

Methods

The type and architecture of resin secretory structures present in bark and wood was investigated from transversal, tangential and radial sections of bark and wood samples. The diameter and density (number of resin canals mm−2) of axial resin canals were determined from digital images of thin sections across the different zones of inner bark.

Key Results

Resin canals form a three-dimensional network within the inner bark. Yet, the intact resin-conducting and producing network is on average limited to the inner 6·6 mm of the inner bark. Within the inner bark, the density of non-lignified axial resin canals decreases and the density of lignified resin canals increases from the vascular cambium towards the outer bark. In the wood, only radial resin canals were encountered.

Conclusions

Frankincense tapping techniques can be improved based on knowledge of bark anatomy and distribution and architecture of resin secretory structures. The suggested new techniques will contribute to a more sustainable frankincense production that enhances the contribution of frankincense to rural livelihoods and the national economy.

Keywords: Boswellia papyrifera; frankincense; resin secretory structures; resin canal; bark anatomy; tapping

Journal Article.  5104 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Ecology and Conservation ; Evolutionary Biology ; Plant Sciences and Forestry

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