The Elephant Tree is known as Makker in its Ethiopian homeland. This Boswellia species is known to be the largest Frankincense producer in its native habitat. Though considered to be inferior to Boswellia carteri/sacra according to local sources, B. papyrifera remains the main source of Frankincense used in the United States by the Roman Catholic, Episcopal, and Eastern Orthodox churches. Makker shares most of the traditional characteristics of B. carteri/sacra and the same information generally applies. Due to the decline of the natural habitat, efforts are now underway to propagate the species for more sustainable harvest.
When placed upon a hot charcoal, B. papyrifera behaves in the same way as most other Boswellia species, producing what we call the "char-coaled marshmallow" effect. Though this is the most traditional way of using this Frankincense, we suggest removing the black lump of resin from the charcoal once the fragrant oils have been released. The aroma is quite similar the African forms of B. carteri, and indeed, many people do not immediately notice any difference. Makker appears to be drier with more pronounced peppery and soapy notes when compared with K'eyi It'an or Beyo, and a noticeably lessened citrus tone. For optimal aromatherapeutic purposes, use an indirect heating source such as an electric heater or a hot plate. Not only does this method prevent extreme heat from charring the Frankincense, but it also allows the essential oils to be released with very little smoke.
Medicinally, the gum-resin have been used to treat infections, infestations and leprosy in traditional settings. One recent study has suggested that prolonged extreme exposure to the smoke may have detrimental effects on the sperm of rats.Regardless, it is always important to have good ventilation when burning any incense or producing other smoke.
Outside of incense production, B. papyrifera exudates are used extensively in creams, detergents, lotions, perfumes, soaps and other cosmetic products. The essential oil has become quite important as a fixative within the United States. The wood is commonly used in Sudan for small carpentry items such as pencils, boxes, matches, tool handles, picture frames, etc. Use of the timber for larger construction is less common, though the plywood is still used in some parts of the country.
Amyris papyrifera Boswellia occidentalis Ploesslia floribunda (more research needed)
Originally described by:
Christian Ferdinand Friedrich Hochstetter(1787-1860)
Boswellia papyrifera appears in dry and rocky environments common among the Commiphora scrublands. Often appearing in large groupings of trees and at elevations of 400 metres and above. The species is abundantly present in Ethiopia and was once widespread throughout Sudan.
Endemic to Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Sudan, and Uganda.
Church Frankincense, Elephant Tree, Sudanese Frankincense
NOTE: The research on Boswellia papyrifera is ongoing. We do our best to provide accurate and up to date information. Please expect the above information to be revised as more information becomes available. If you have further information about this species or if you wish to submit a correction to this page, please feel free to contact us here
As of 2016, we have decided to majorly simplify the taxonomic structures of the species collection. Due to the numerous systems available, and many species being disputed and in a state of flux, we feel that most of our audience will be better served with a easier to understand condensed listing.