Sunday, January 6, 2013

Frankincense Endangered

From Garden Design:
Despite its long history as a sacred plant, Bostwellia trees today are looking at a grim future. According to a December 2011 study published in the Journal of Applied Ecology, the trees are threatened by various pressures that may reduce their numbers by 90 percent in the next 50 years. Young saplings are not surviving, trees are seeding less frequently, and, when they do, with decreased viability. Over-harvesting is a factor, but so are predators and increased fires.

This year, hope arrives in a new paper in the Annals of Botany. By mapping the tree's anatomy, botanists from the Netherlands and Ethiopia have discovered a new approach to tapping the trees, one that will yield more resin with less harm to the tree. Motuma Tolera, an author of the study, explains: "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." When he and his colleagues discovered an intricate network of canals in the inner bark, they saw "an option to reduce the number of cuts, and reduce the damage to the trees." (Read entire article.)

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