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Frankincense gifts not so wise

By , 11 December 2012

Written by Alice Ryder

Man holding bowl of frankincense.

Is the world supply of frankincense running out?
Image: Thinkstock

Actors in Christmas nativity plays take note – the three wise men may come up one present short for baby Jesus this year, because the world’s supply of frankincense is in danger.

Frankincense and myrrh are both perfumes made from dried tree sap. The tree sap, or resin, is collected from the tree by cutting a little way into the bark.

Unfortunately, the Boswellia trees used to make frankincense are dying out across Africa, and new trees aren’t growing to replace them.

A team of ecologists studying the trees in Ethiopia found that many adult Boswellia trees are being attacked and killed by long-horned beetles. These beetles lay their eggs under the bark.

On top of that, hungry cows and frequent fires are stopping young Boswellia plants from growing up. The areas they studied have more fires and cows now than it had ten or twenty years before.

If the trees are not protected somehow, the scientists think nine-out-of-ten of them may be gone in 50 years time. To protect this species and our source of frankincense, it’s time to make some wise decisions.

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