Family: Burseraceae
Habitat: Africa, Arabian Peninsula, India, in arid areas.
Cultivation: Not so difficult: put it in a bright spot, water it seldom but regularly during the vegetative season and stop the irrigation when it enters dormancy.
Curiosity: The species name honors Scottish botanist John Boswell, who lived in 1700.


Boswellias is a genus of plants belonging to the family Burseraceae, including more or less 30 species. Three species of Boswellia are used in the production of the incense: they are B. sacra, B. papyrifera, and B. serrata.

These woody plants are well known as they are used for the production of incense, moreover the extraction of their sap and the essential oils produced in Ayurvedic medicine, that are believed to have beneficial effects and are used for treatments against diabetes, fever, cardiovascular diseases and rheumatoid arthritis. This genus is particularly known for its Boswellia sacra, as it is thought to be the incense brought by the Three Kings to baby Jesus, which is why it is often used in religious rituals.

Boswellias are widespread in Africa, the Arabian Peninsula and India. The species used for the incense are from Africa. Many species of Boswellias are threatened, including B. sacra, the primary incense species, due to habitat loss and overexploitation. Most Boswellia grow in harsh, arid regions beset by poverty and conflict. Harvesting and selling the tree’s resin is one of the only sources of income for the inhabitants, resulting in the overexploitation mentioned above.

Boswellias are medium-sized flowering, dioecious trees or shrubs. A plant is dioecious when it possues male and female flowers in separated individuals. This is an evolutionary device to enhance crossed pollination between different individuals and increase genetic variability.

Their stem is usually wooden and resinous: in particular, it papery, peeling bark, which is rich in resins.

Their leaves are often compound (which means that they are divided in leaflets), and have numerous leaflets, generally 7-8, impartipennat (which is another botanical term to say that they have a solitary leaflets at the top of the leaf peduncle, between the two lines of leaflets.

Flowers are grouped in clusters called raceme, are often white and have 5 petals. The latter are imbricate, which is a botanical term meaning that they are arranged like roof tiles. They end up in forming fruits which are drupes or capsules which open in 3 or 5 valves.


Here below are a few species of Boswellia. Check our online store to find them!

  • B. ameero
  • B. boranensis
  • B. bricchettii
  • B. bullata
  • B. chariensis
  • B. dalzielii
  • B. dioscoridis
  • B. elegans
  • B. elongata
  • B. frereana
  • B. globosa
  • B. hildebrandtii
  • B. holstii
  • B. madagascariensis
  • B. microphylla
  • B. occidentalis
  • B. odorata
  • B. ogadensis
  • B. ovalifoliolata
  • B. papyrifera
  • B. rivae
  • B. sacra
  • B. serrata
  • B. socotrana


Boswellias are not so difficult to cultivate. Here below are our cultivation tips:

  • It requires intense sunlight, so you can put it in a bright or semi-bright spot.
  • Boswellia needs a well-drained soil. A substrate consisting of soil, gravel and sand in equal proportions is an optimal solution.
  • Keep your Boswellia exposed to hot temperatures, as it comes from hot, semi-desertic areas. It is preferable to keep it at mild temperatures and never below 12 °C, for this reason it is recommended to shelter it during the winter period.
  • Water abundantly every 10 days during the growing season. Completely stop watering during the resting period of the plant.
  • It’s Better to cultivate it an a clay pot rather than in plastic: the plant will grow better.
  • They do not need frequent fertilization, it is sufficient to dilute the fertilizer with watering once a year.
  • As they show usually a slow growth rate, repotting is rarely necessary.

Propagation by seeds is usually difficult, but is the only experienced method.

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