Frankincense

Frankincense stars in a big role in history, Christmas and horticulture.
Frankincense starts as a resinous sap inside a special family of trees that grow almost exclusively in the southern end of the Arabian Peninsula. At certain times of year the trees are cut with knives, and the sap oozes out. Once the sap has dried in the sun, it is ready to be used. Throughout history, frankincense has been used for religious rituals, extensively used in burial rituals as an embalming material, an offering to the departed and a means to cover the odor of the dead body.The Roman emperor, Nero, burned an entire year’s harvest of frankincense at the funeral of his favorite mistress
Over 6000 years of history the frankincense has inspired the reality and imagination of the importance of the dried sap.


When harvested frankincense is burned because of the saps pleasing aromas, but historically they have a number of other uses as well: easing of ulcers, hypertension, nausea, fever, indigestion, chest coughs and post-childbirth recovery. The smoke from burning frankincense drives away mosquitoes and other flying insects, reducing incidences of malaria in afflicted regions.


Christmas, many have heard of the story of the birth of Christ. Frankincense is mentioned. The Three Wise Men: The traditional telling of the Christmas story include a key moment where Wise men from the East arrive and present the Christ child with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. This brief mention of frankincense is usually the first and most common encounter that most people have with this special substance.
Because frankincense grows almost exclusively in Oman, it has been a vital part of the Omani horticulture and paramount within their culture for millennia.
The optium growing climate for Boswellia trees are in evergreen tropical forests, laurel forests, tropical and subtropical mountain rainforests but also in tropical mountain cloud forests in high humidity.


Boswellia trees grow best in a fast-draining sandy soil that retains water but does not stay saturated. Good drainage is essential for these plants.

Image from the BBC on the sacred Boswellia


Boswellia seeds are best to germinate in the spring, however, within a controlled environment; they will germinate any time of year. To germinate the seeds, it is best to use a well-drained soil and set the seeds on top of the soil with pumice to cover the seeds. The soil must be kept moist at all times until the seeds germinate. The key to successfully germinating these seeds is high humidity and high temperature (90 degrees and higher). The germination rate of Boswellia seeds in cultivation is between 0 to 8%, a very poor germination rate.
The excitement of harvesting frankincense is a moment not to forget. Frankincense is tapped from the scraggly but hardy trees by slashing the bark, which is called striping, and allowing the exuded resin to bleed out and harden. These hardened resins are called Frankincense tears. It takes about 8–10 years for a tree to be ready to produce resin.