Bursera excelsa produces a hard, somewhat brittle copal that appears in semi-translucent shades of orange. This copal is the preferred incense of various indigenous people of southern Mexico including the Zinacantecos. The incense is thought to be a proper offering to rain deities. We will strive to provide more information about this little referenced species as it becomes available.
The resin smolders quite well when placed upon hot charcoal. It melts and almost completely evaporates in a similar way to many other species of Bursera. The aroma is resinous with pronounced notes of pine, and quite different than any other Copal we have experienced. In some ways, the aroma reminds us of Lodgepole Pine or a fragrant Colophony. The smoke does tend to be a bit harsher when compared with other Burseras. This can easily be avoided by using indirect heating to release the fragrance from the resin. We have yet to experiment in depth with this incense, however we suspect that it will work quite well in Latin American blends oriented around Christmas and other winter holidays.
Extracts from the leaves are useful for their insect repellent properties. The presence of Germacrene-D along with other organic hydrocarbons in the leaves is thought to contribute to the insecticidal properties of various members of the Burseraceae family, including Bursera copallifera, B. excelsa, B. fagaroides, B. graveolens, Boswellia sacra, Commiphora holtziana and C. myrrha. In recent studies, this chemical has been found to be repellent to not only herbivores (beetles), but also mosquitoes, aphids and ticks.
As with many of the Bursera species, not enough research has been done in regards to resin identification. While copals are widely used throughout Mesoamerica and beyond, ethnobotanists still have a ways to go before completely understanding the cultural and trade aspects of the various Bursera species.If you have any useful information you wish to share, please feel free to contact us!
Little information is available about the exact range of Bursera excelsa. The species is thought to be most prevalent in the tropics of southern Mexico, especially in the states of Chiapas and Oaxaca, extending south into Guatemala.
Common English Holy, Tree Copal, Santo Tree Copal
Latin American tongues Mexican Spanish: Árbol del Copal Santo Tzotzil:"genuine incense" Unspecified language in Chiapas, Mexico: Pomó, Tecomahaca
Further research is needed to better understand the common nomenclature of this species.
NOTE: The research on Boswellia excelsa moderate 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.
Print materials: • Montemayor, Carlos, and Donald Frischmann. Words of the True Peoples / Palabras de los Seres Verdaderos: Anthology of Contemporary Mexican Indigenous-Language Writers. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2005.