Bursera microphylla

Last updated

Bursera microphylla
Scientific classification Red Pencil Icon.png
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Rosids
Order: Sapindales
Family: Burseraceae
Genus: Bursera
Species:B. microphylla
Binomial name
Bursera microphylla
Gray 1861 [1]
Bursera microphylla range map 1.png
Natural range of Bursera microphylla
Synonyms [1] [2]
  • Elaphrium microphyllum(A. Gray) Rose
  • Terebinthus microphylla(A. Gray) Rose

Bursera microphylla is a North American species of tree in the frankincense family in the soapwood order. Bursera microphylla, known by the common name elephant tree in English or 'torote' in Spanish, is a tree in genus Bursera . It grows into a distinctive sculptural form, with a thickened, water-storing or caudiciform trunk. It is found in the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico.

Burseraceae family of plants

The Burseraceae are a moderate-sized family of 17-19 genera and about 540 species of flowering plants. The actual numbers differ according to the time period in which a given source is written describing this family. The Burseraceae are also known as the torchwood family, the frankincense and myrrh family, or simply the incense tree family. The family includes both trees and shrubs, and is native to tropical regions of Africa, Asia, and the Americas.

Sapindales order of plants

Sapindales is an order of flowering plants. Well-known members of Sapindales include citrus; maples, horse-chestnuts, lychees and rambutans; mangos and cashews; frankincense and myrrh; mahogany and neem.



Bursera microphylla is the most northerly member of the Burseraceae in North America and also perhaps the most xeromorphic (desert-adapted) species within the genus as it thrives in the extremely arid desert hills and mountains in northwest Sonora. This tree is native to northwestern Mexico (Baja California, Baja California Sur, Sinaloa, Sonora and Zacatecas) [1] and the southwestern United States (southern California and Arizona; especially in desert regions. [3] Some of the populations lie inside Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, Ironwood Forest National Monument, Sonoran Desert National Monument, Pinacate and Gran Desierto Biosphere Reserve, Islas del Golfo de California Biosphere Reserve, Cabo Pulmo National Park, El Vizcaíno Biosphere Reserve, Valle de los Cirios Natural Protected Area, and Sierra de San Pedro Mártir National Park. [4] [5] [6]

Baja California Federal entity in Mexico

Baja California, officially the Free and Sovereign State of Baja California, is a state in Mexico. It is the northernmost and westernmost of the 32 Federal Entities of Mexico. Before becoming a state in 1952, the area was known as the North Territory of Baja California. It has an area of 70,113 km2 (27,071 sq mi), or 3.57% of the land mass of Mexico and comprises the northern half of the Baja California Peninsula, north of the 28th parallel, plus oceanic Guadalupe Island. The mainland portion of the state is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean, on the east by Sonora, the U.S. state of Arizona, and the Gulf of California, and on the south by Baja California Sur. Its northern limit is the U.S. state of California.

Baja California Sur State of Mexico

Baja California Sur, officially the Estado Libre y Soberano de Baja California Sur, is the second-smallest Mexican state by population and the 31st admitted state of the 31 states which, with Mexico City, make up the 32 Federal Entities of Mexico.

Sinaloa State of Mexico

Sinaloa, officially the Free and Sovereign State of Sinaloa, is one of the 31 states which, with the Federal District, compose the 32 Federal Entities of Mexico. It is divided into 18 municipalities and its capital city is Culiacán Rosales.


Bursera microphylla is generally a small tree with a thickened trunk and relatively small branching structure in comparison to the trunk size; it is semi-succulent and stores water in the conductive and parenchymal tissues of the trunk, lower limbs, and wood. [7] Shreve (1964) classified the plant as a sarcocaulescent tree. The sarcocaulescent habit acts as a buffer against variation in environmental water balance (Turner et al., 1995). The leaves are alternate, without stipules, and are mostly once-pinnate or twice-pinnate but can be unifoliate or trifoliate in some species (Rzedowski and Kruse 1979). Bursera microphylla reaches up to 10 m (33 ft) [8] in height and its bark is light gray to white, with younger branches having a reddish color. The light foliage is made up of long, straight, flat, legume-like leaves which are composed of paired leaflets. It flowers in rounded yellow buds which open into small, star-shaped, white or cream flowers. The fruit is a drupe containing a yellow stone. [9]

Water balance

In hydrology, a water balance equation can be used to describe the flow of water in and out of a system. A system can be one of several hydrological domains, such as a column of soil or a drainage basin. Water balance can also refer to the ways in which an organism maintains water in dry or hot conditions. It is often discussed in reference to plants or arthropods, which have a variety of water retention mechanisms, including a lipid waxy coating that has limited permeability.

In botany, stipule is a term coined by Linnaeus which refers to outgrowths borne on either side of the base of a leafstalk. A pair of stipules is considered part of the anatomy of the leaf of a typical flowering plant, although in many species the stipules are inconspicuous or entirely absent. In some older botanical writing, the term "stipule" was used more generally to refer to any small leaves or leaf-parts, notably prophylls.

Legume Plant in the family Fabaceae

A legume is a plant in the family Fabaceae, or the fruit or seed of such a plant. Legumes are grown agriculturally, primarily for human consumption, for livestock forage and silage, and as soil-enhancing green manure. Well-known legumes include alfalfa, clover, peas, chickpeas, lentils, lupin bean, mesquite, carob, soybeans, peanuts and tamarind. Legumes produce a botanically unique type of fruit – a simple dry fruit that develops from a simple carpel and usually dehisces on two sides. A common name for this type of fruit is a pod, although the term "pod" is also applied to a number of other fruit types, such as that of vanilla and of the radish.

The leaves are characterized as deciduous, including those on species that occur in tropical subhumid and humid forests (Becerra 2005). As a response to rain and warmer temperatures, B. hindsiana, B. laxiflora, and other more tropical species in Sonora begin to leaf out at any time of the year. [10] Most species are drought deciduous, but B. microphylla keeps its leaves year-round, except under conditions of drought and cold weather. Most of the Sonoran Burseras flower in June and July, just before or just as the leaves are produced. This is probably in response to a lack of rainfall earlier in the summer before the monsoon season as this species is found in the region of Sonora lies at the western edge of an area, which regularly experiences summer monsoon storms.

The fruits of species in the genus Bursera are small, drupe-like capsules, each with a single-seed. [11] In B. microphylla, the fruits develop rapidly and ripen gradually, a few at a time, and in some species many fruits remain on the trees as they begin to flower the following summer. [10] Birds appear to be primarily responsible for seed dispersal in Bursera. Gray Vireos and Ash- throated Flycatchers feed heavily on the ripe fruits of B. microphylla in the Puerto Lobos region of Sonora, Mexico during the winter months. [10] The winter range of the Gray Vireo in Sonora closely matches the distribution of Bursera microphylla. [12] Birds do not appear to eat the unripe fruit. [10] Rodents sometimes gather fruits and seeds of Bursera. Ants have been observed carrying away seeds of B. microphylla<. [10] The exfoliating papery bark of many of the trivalvate species may serve to attract the attention of birds and other animals from a distance as it rustles in the breeze (Rzedowski and Kruse 1979).


Cahuilla Native American people

The Cahuilla, also known as ʔívil̃uqaletem or Ivilyuqaletem, are a Native American people of the inland areas of southern California. Their original territory included an area of about 2,400 square miles (6,200 km2). The traditional Cahuilla territory was near the geographic center of Southern California. It was bounded to the north by the San Bernardino Mountains, to the south by Borrego Springs and the Chocolate Mountains, to the east by the Colorado Desert, and to the west by the San Jacinto Plain and the eastern slopes of the Palomar Mountains.

Native Americans in the United States Indigenous peoples of the United States (except Hawaii)

Native Americans, also known as American Indians, Indigenous Americans and other terms, are the indigenous peoples of the United States, except Hawaii. There are over 500 federally recognized tribes within the US, about half of which are associated with Indian reservations. The term "American Indian" excludes Native Hawaiians and some Alaska Natives, while Native Americans are American Indians, plus Alaska Natives of all ethnicities. Native Hawaiians are not counted as Native Americans by the US Census, instead being included in the Census grouping of "Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander".

Colorado Desert desert in California, United States

California's Colorado Desert is a part of the larger Sonoran Desert. It encompasses approximately 7 million acres (28,000 km2), including the heavily irrigated Coachella and Imperial valleys. It is home to many unique flora and fauna.

See also

Related Research Articles

Sonoran Desert North American desert

The Sonoran Desert is a North American desert which covers large parts of the Southwestern United States in Arizona and California and of Northwestern Mexico in Sonora, Baja California, and Baja California Sur. It is the hottest desert in Mexico. It has an area of 260,000 square kilometers (100,000 sq mi). The western portion of the United States–Mexico border passes through the Sonoran Desert.

Ironwood Forest National Monument national monument in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona

Ironwood Forest National Monument is located in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona. Created by Bill Clinton by Presidential Proclamation 7320 on June 9, 2000, the monument is managed by the Bureau of Land Management, an agency within the United States Department of the Interior. The monument covers 188,619 acres (76,331 ha), of which 59,922 acres (24,250 ha) are non-federal and include private land holdings and Arizona State School Trust lands.

<i>Parkinsonia microphylla</i> species of plant

Parkinsonia microphylla, the yellow paloverde, foothill paloverde or little-leaved palo verde; syn. Cercidium microphyllum), is a species of palo verde.

<i>Parkinsonia florida</i> species of plant

Parkinsonia florida, the blue palo verde, is a species of palo verde native to the Sonoran Deserts in the Southwestern United States and Northwestern Mexico. Its name means "green pole or stick" in Spanish, referring to the green trunk and branches, that perform photosynthesis.

<i>Canotia</i> genus of plants

Canotia holacantha, also known as crucifixion thorn or simply canotia, is a flowering shrub / small tree in the family Celastraceae. It is the only species in the genus Canotia.

Juniperus coahuilensis, commonly known as redberry juniper, is a species of conifer in the family Cupressaceae.

<i>Fraxinus velutina</i> species of plant

Fraxinus velutina, the velvet ash, Arizona ash or Modesto ash, is a species of Fraxinus native to southwestern North America, in the United States from southern California east to Texas, and in Mexico from northern Baja California east to Coahuila and Nuevo León.

<i>Olneya</i> species of plant

Olneya tesota is a perennial flowering tree of the Fabaceae family, legumes, which is commonly known as ironwood or desert ironwood. It is the only species in the monotypic genus Olneya. This tree is part of the western Sonoran Desert complex in the Southwestern United States, which includes flora such as palo verde, saguaro, ocotillo, brittlebush, creosote bush, and mesquite.

Elephant tree is a common name for several plants with swollen stems and may refer to:

Lower Colorado River Valley

The Lower Colorado River Valley ("LCRV") is the river region of the lower Colorado River of the southwestern United States in North America that rises in the Rocky Mountains and has its outlet at the Colorado River Delta in the northern Gulf of California in northwestern Mexico, between the states of Baja California and Sonora. This north–south stretch of the Colorado River forms the border between the U.S. states of California/Arizona and Nevada/Arizona, and between the Mexican states of Baja California/Sonora.

Tinajas Altas Mountains

The Tinajas Altas Mountains are an extremely arid northwest-southeast trending mountain range in southern Yuma County, Arizona, approximately 35 mi southeast of Yuma, Arizona. The southern end of the range extends approximately one mile into the northwestern Mexican state of Sonora on the northern perimeter of the Gran Desierto de Altar. The range is about 22 mi in length and about 4 mi wide at its widest point. The highpoint of the range is unnamed and is 2,766 feet above sea level and is located at 32°16'26"N, 114°02'48"W. Aside from the portion of the range in Mexico, the entirety of the range lies within the Barry M. Goldwater Air Force Range. They lie at the heart of the traditional homeland of the Hia C-eḍ O'odham people.

Pinacate Peaks mountains

The Pinacate Peaks are a group of volcanic peaks and cinder cones located mostly in the Mexican state of Sonora along the international border adjacent to the U.S. state of Arizona, surrounded by the vast sand dune field of the Gran Desierto de Altar, at the desert's southeast.

<i>Pachycormus discolor</i> species of plant

Pachycormus is a monotypic genus of flowering plants in the cashew family. The generic name refers to pachy for "thick" and kormos for "stump," referring to the thick caudiciform trunk. The specific epithet dis refers to a negation of color. The single species is Pachycormus discolor endemic to the Baja California peninsula.

The Sierra de San Francisco is a mountain range in Mulegé Municipality of the northern region of Baja California Sur state, in northwestern Mexico.

<i>Bursera fagaroides</i> species of plant

Bursera fagaroides is a species of flowering plant in the genus Bursera known by the common names torchwood copal and fragrant bursera. It is widespread across much of Mexico from Sonora to Oaxaca, and its range extends just into Arizona in the United States, although some sources suggest that it may now be extirpated in Arizona.

<i>Vauquelinia californica</i> species of plant

Vauquelinia californica, commonly known as Arizona rosewood, is an evergreen species of shrub or tree, in the rose family, Rosaceae.

Myriopteris windhamii, formerly known as Cheilanthes villosa, is a species of lip fern, known as villous lipfern. This plant is native to the southwestern United States where it grows in rocky mountains and deserts. For example, it is found along with the elephant tree, Bursera microphylla, and other desert species in the Waterman Mountains of southeastern Arizona.

<i>Buellia spuria</i> species of fungus

Buellia spuria is a white to light ashy gray crustose areolate lichen that grows on rocks (epilithic) in montane habitats. It has a black edge from the conspicuous, more or less continuous prothallus, which can also be seen in the cracks between the areolas forming a hypothallus, and in sharp contrast with the whitish or ashy colored areolas. It prefers mafic (siliceous) rock substrates. In Joshua Tree National Park is can be seen on vertical granite and gneiss faces in washes. It is common worldwide in the Northern Hemisphere. It is very common in the Sonoran Desert from southern California to Arizona, Baja California, and Sonora, Chihuahua, and Sinaloa, Mexico.

Bursera laxiflora is a North American species of trees in the frankincense family in the soapwood order, native to northwestern Mexico. It is fairly common in Sonora with additional populations in Sinaloa, Baja California Sur, and Socorro Island. There is a report of the species being found in the United States, but it is from the property of the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum west of Tucson, most likely a cultivated or escaped specimen.

Bursera grandifolia is a Mexican species of trees in the frankincense family in the soapwood order. It is widespread across much of Mexico from Sonora to the Yucatán Peninsula, and found also in Central America as far south as Costa Rica.


  1. 1 2 3 "Bursera microphylla". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Retrieved 2009-01-11.
  2. The Plant List, Bursera microphylla A.Gray
  3. Mooney HA, Emboden WA Jr (1968). "The relationship of terpene composition, morphology, and distribution of populations of Bursera microphylla (Burseraceae)". Brittonia. 20: 44–51. doi:10.2307/2805460.
  4. SEINet, Southwestern Biodiversity, Arizona chapter photos, description, distribution map
  5. Calflora taxon report, University of California, Bursera microphylla A. Gray, elephant tree, littleleaf elephanttree
  6. Shreve, F. & I. L. Wiggins. 1964. Vegetation and Flora of the Sonoran Desert. Stanford University Press, Stanford.
  7. Turner RM, Bowers JE, Burgess TL (2005). Sonoran Desert Plants: An Ecological Atlas. Tucson: University of Arizona Press. p. 501. ISBN   978-0816525195.
  8. Jepson Manual Treatment — Bursera microphylla
  9. C. Michael Hogan. 2009. Elephant Tree: Bursera microphylla, GlobalTwitcher.com, ed. N. Stromberg
  10. 1 2 3 4 5 Johnson, M. B. (1992). "The genus Bursera (Burseraceae) in Sonora, Mexico and Arizona, U.S.A.". Desert Plants. 10: 126–143.
  11. Felger, Richard S.; Matthew B. Johnson & Michael F. Wilson (2001). The Trees of Sonora, Mexico. Oxford University Press.
  12. John M. Bates (1992). "Frugivory on Bursera microphylla (Burseraceae) by Wintering Gray Vireos (Vireo vicinior, Vireonidae) in the Coastal Deserts of Sonora, Mexico". The Southwestern Naturalist. 37 (3 (Sep.)): 252–258. doi:10.2307/3671866.
  13. Lindsay, D. 2001, Anza-Borrego A to Z: People, Places and Things, Sunbelt Publications.
  14. Fleger, R.S. & M.B. Moser. 1992. People of the Desert and Sea: Ethnobotany of the Seri Indians. University of Arizona Press.
  15. Soule, J.A. 2013. Success with Succulents. Tierra del Sol Press