Commiphora sp. is native to the Arabian Peninsula to Northern Africa, most of the Middle East and India. Members of this genus are a group of very aromatic trees and shrubs used for medicine and incense since biblical times. I have not been able to identify the species we have, but I have my suspicions that it may be C. humbertii. We have grown these trees for 10 years and they are one of the most difficult plants that I have grown. The plant at 10 years is only 5 feet tall (1.5 m), with small trifoliate leaves to 1 inch (2.5 cm) long on greenish gray branches. The bark of this species is grey-green with a white peeling outer bark. The caudex is approximately 6 inches across.
Blooming: In the greenhouse, the trees bloom in late spring to early summer. The small greenish white blooms are followed by hard brown seeds. They are not showy when in bloom.
Culture: Commiphora sp. need full sun and a very well-drained soil mix. In the greenhouse, we use a soil mix consisting of 1 part peat moss to 2 parts coarse sand, with small gravel added to ensure good drainage. The plants grow in some of the harshest conditions in the world where water is very scarce. They need to be watered sparingly, and I do not recommend fertilizing them. We may water the plants once a month during the growing season. Too much water will certainly cause root rot and general decline in the plants. During the winter months, the plants are not watered at all and winter temperatures are not allowed to drop below 65° F (18° C).
Propagation: Commiphora sp. is propagated from seed. The seed we received germinated in 45-60 days at 75-80° F (23-26° C). Of the five seeds that I received all were polyembryonic.
Commiphora sp. was featured as Plant of the Week March 31-April 6, 2006.
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Cal's Plant of the Week was provided as a service by the University of Oklahoma Department of Microbiology & Plant Biology and specifically the late Cal Lemke, who used to be OU's botany greenhouse grower and an avid gardener at home as well. If the above links don't work, then try the overview site. You may also like to look at the thumbnail index. ©1998-2012 All rights reserved.