Frankincense is on its way to extinction

Myrrh and frankincense have bewildered countless generations of children who have no idea what they are, nor why they’d be given as a present to the baby Jesus. Now, future generations will be even more confused, because Balthazar’s present of frankincense may be on its way to extinction. Frankincense is resin from the Boswellia tree, generally found in North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. It’s used for perfume and incense, partly due to its link to the Christmas story. Now research is showing that farming, coupled with environmental hazards, have put the population of this tree severely at risk.

While the dangers of over-tapping the slow-growing trees have been known for some time, this new research more sternly places the blame on wildfires, grazing and insect attacks. These pressures mean that few saplings are surviving to the age where they can be harvested because they’re the most at risk from grazing animals. There’s also a 6%-7% adult mortality rate due to beetle attack.

Without intervention, there will be a 50% decline in yield in the next 15 years, and a 90% drop in the next 50 — which could mean the end of a resource that’s been traded by humans for 5,000 years. It’s hoped that by preventing fires and grazing, at least some of this crop can be saved.

Edited from Frankincense is on its way to extinction.

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