Torote Copal is a semi-hard, mostly opaque resin with an light yellowish hue. Some sources state that the resin appears in various shades of yellow, brown and black. This may very well be the case, as there are numerous examples throughout the Burseraceae family of varying resin shades. One prime example is the directly related Bursera graveolens that commonly appears in gray chunks, but also may be found as translucent orange pieces and even rarely as beautiful white tears. Due to the extensive confusion over Copal terminology, it is often impossible to determine the taxonomic identity of specific resins once they have left their native source. Copal resins are often burned through Mexico during various religious festivals and celebrations with their historic use as incense dating back well into pre-Columbian times. This incense is thought to be calming and to help clear cluttered minds.
This resin produces a soft, resinous smoke when placed upon hot charcoal. The resin quickly melts and evaporates entirely, making it an excellent choice for the charcoal method. The aroma is cleansing and reminiscent of other copals such as Copal de Pence, though it lacks any striking identifiable aromatic notes. This copal probably has one of the "calmest" aromas, and a good choice for those who are sensitive to perfumes or have allergies. Heating the resin indirectly on an electric burner or hotplate works to some effect, though it produces a rather unremarkable aroma.
Torote Copal has many uses outside of incense production. The essential oil of the wood produced in Mexico is used extensively throughout the food service industry, especially in bakery items, frozen desserts, candy, puddings and beverages. The oil is used for its pleasant aroma reminiscent of rose and is commonly used in Mexican perfumes as well. Practically, the resin may be used as an adhesive for pottery, and the wood is used due to its high content of tannins. 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.
Medicinally speaking, the resin is applied to open wounds and insect bites, especially scorpion stings. The resin is also used as an expectorant and purgative. The chemical Podophyllotoxin is used in chemotherapy among other topical applications. In studies, it has been shown to have anti-cancer and anti tumor effects.
Bursera fagaroides is native to tropical and subtropical dry forests. The species is widely distributed throughout Mexico, especially in the Western half of the country. The plants seems be at home in dry washes and prefer rocky, well drained soils.
The species has been recorded in the Mexican states of Baja Sur, Guerrero, Jalisco, Michoacan, Nayarit, Oaxaca, San Luis Potosi, Sinaloa, and Sonora as well as throughout the Sonoran Dessert extending into Arizona in the United States.
Note: A distinction between B. fagaroides and B. odorata is currently made by some academics, though this information appears to be out of date. We have chosen to follow the lead of the KEW and MOBOT researchers and group the two species together at this time.
Common English Copal, Fragrant Bursera, Fragrant Elephant Tree, Torchwood Copal, White Bark Tree
Latin American tongues Mexican Spanish in Morelos: Cuajiote Amarillo Mexican Spanish in San Luis Potosi: Cuajiote Colorado Mexican Spanish in Querétaro: Palo Xiote Various un-specified forms of Mexican Spanish and other endemic tongues: Aceitillo, Pima Bajo, Torote, Torote Blanco, Torote de Vaca, Torote Papelío, Torote Prieto
Further research is needed to better understand the common nomenclature of this species.
NOTE: The research on Boswellia fagaroides 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.
Online sources: • Fern, Ken. Bursera fagaroides. Useful Tropical Plants, 2014, available from http://tropical.theferns.info/viewtropical.php?id=Bursera+fagaroides. Accessed on 27 Aug 2015. • Noge, K. and J. X. Becerra. Germacrene D, A Common Sesquiterpene in the Genus Bursera (Burseraceae). Published in Molecules, 2009, 14, 5289-5297. Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute, 2015, available from http://www.mdpi.com/1420-3049/14/12/5289. Accessed on 27 Aug 2015.
• Rojas-Sepúlveda, A. M., M. Mendieta-Serrano, M. Y. A. Mojica,
E. Salas-Vidal, S. Marquina, M. L. Villarreal, A. M. Puebla, J. I. Delgado, and
L. Alvarez. Cytotoxic Podophyllotoxin Type-Lignans from the Steam Bark of Bursera
fagaroides var. fagaroides. Published in Molecules, 2012, 217, 9506-9519.
Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute, 2015, available from http://www.mdpi.com/1420-3049/17/8/9506.
Accessed 27 Aug 2015. • Stross, Brian. Mesoamerican Copal Resins. University of Austin Texas, U-Mut Maya 6:177-186, 2013, available from http://www.utexas.edu/courses/stross/papers/copal.htm. Accessed on 25 Aug 2015. • USDA, ARS, National Genetic Resources Program. Bursera fagaroides. Germplasm Resources Information Network, 2010 available from http://www.ars-grin.gov/cgi-bin/npgs/html/taxon.pl?8167. Accessed on 27 Aug 2015. • Bursera fagaroides. Encyclopedia of Living Forms, 2015, available from http://www.llifle.com/Encyclopedia/TREES/Family/Burseraceae/10992/Bursera_fagaroides. Accessed on 27 Aug 2015. • Bursera fagaroides. The Plant List, Version 1.1, 2013, available from http://www.theplantlist.org/tpl1.1/record/kew-2687520. Accessed on 26 Aug 2015. • Bursera fagaroides. Tropicos, Missouri Botanical Garden, 2015, available from http://www.tropicos.org/Name/50130701. Accessed on 27 Aug 2015. • Copal (Bursera fagaroides). Encyclopedia of Life, available from http://eol.org/pages/583025/overview. Accessed on 27 Aug 2015.