Dec 162016
 

Boswellia sacra (frankincense) in Oman

Frankincense and myrrh have an almost mystical place in our psyche at this time of year and both can be best be descibed, if unflatteringly, as non-timber forest products.

While frankincense and myrrh are strongly associated with the story of Jesus both have long been revered from Ancient Greece and Egypt, used in the Jewish, Christian and Muslim faiths and were traded eastward in antiquity with India and China for incense and medicinal purposes.

Frankincense is the white resin extracted from species of the genus Boswellia, which grow in arid, cool areas of the Arabian Peninsula, East Africa and India. The resin from Boswellia sacra from Somalia, Oman and Yemen, is considered to be the finest and most aromatic. The resin is also known as olibanum, from the Arabic al-lubān.

Myrrh is a reddish resin that is harvested from species of the genus Commiphora, native to northeast Africa and the adjacent areas of the Arabian Peninsula. Commiphora myrrha, a tree commonly used in the production of myrrh, is found in the shallow, rocky soils of Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia in Africa and in Oman and Saudi Arabia on the Peninsula. However the myrrh of the Bible is believed to be a related, but different species Commiphora guidottii.

Commiphora myrrha (myrrh) in Yemen

The resins are extracted from both Boswellia and Commiphora trees by making longitudinal cuts in the trunks. The sap slowly exudes from those cut and drips down the tree, forming tear-shaped droplets that are left to harden on the side of the trees before harvesting several weeks later. Mature trees of both Boswellia and Commiphora can yield up to 3kg of resin per year and with frankincense selling for about £40 per kilo and myrrh for about £80 per kg, it makes them valuable regional crops.

 

While the harvesting is not destructive is does appear to be detrimental in the long term; with a reduction in viable seed production and therefore a reduction in number of young plants to replace the old, see: Limitations to sustainable frankincense production: blocked regeneration, high adult mortality and declining populations. Also the increase in havesting has led to increased pressures on the wider natural envrionment, Rare Arabian leopards forced out by frankincense harvesters.

In Febuary 2017 the Centre for Middle Eastern Plants will be attending an IUCN red-listing workshop in Sharjah where regionally important trees will be assessed or updated.

On that note…..tis the season.

Nov 282016
 

edinburgh-logo

The two day symposium on the 13th & 14th of May 2017 at Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is organised by the Association for the Study of Travel in Egypt and the Near East (ASTENE) in conjunction with the Centre for Middle Easten Plants (CMEP). Contributions are welcome from a wide range of disciplines and interests. It is envisaged that the Seminar will cover many fascinating subjects on (though not restricted to) the following main themes:

– Travellers’ accounts related to the botanical legacy of any part of the former Ottoman Empire (e.g. present-day Turkey, the Levant, Egypt, the Balkans, Arabian Peninsula etc.)
– The flora of the region, including their heritage, preservation and medicinal uses
– Bulbs of the region, especially tulips, and their cultural significance; Tulipomania
– Ottoman garden design and architecture
– Floral and related motifs in Ottoman art, including textiles, ceramics etc.
– Culinary aspects of the botanical legacy of the region
– Literary, pictorial and photographic depictions of any aspect of the botanical and horticultural legacy of the region
– Orientalism as applicable to any of the seminar’s main themes.

Please email your offers of papers to ottomanlandsastene@gmail.com together with a working title, a brief abstract of not more than 250 words, and the names of authors and their affiliations. We also welcome the offer of pre-organised panels of up to four speakers on specific themes. Participants will be informed about the acceptance of their paper by 15 February 2017. Seminar Bursaries are also offered: please contact treasurerastene@gmail.com for information.

Download the Poster here

The Seminar Booking Form and the Draft Seminar Programme will be available on Eventbrite in early January 2017 with the deadline for bookings being 15 April 2017. Tickets will also be available at the event. In the meantime, any enquiries should be addressed to ottomanlandsastene@gmail.com

tiol

Jul 052016
 
Ian Hedge's Photographic Collection. Afghanistan - 1962-69. RBGE Archive

Ian Hedge’s Photographic Collection. Afghanistan – 1962-69. RBGE Archive

Botanical names have a tendency to be utilitarian, geographical or commemorative, but very rarely are they whimsical.

In 1964 however, Per Wendelbo described a new species of Scrophularia, from Afghanistan and called it S. landroveri. He and Ian Hedge from RBGE had collected the specimen from the Shibar Pass  northwest of Kabul during their 1962 collection trip.

The name Scrophularia landroveri was used to honour their rusty Landrover Series II that had suffered in the pursuit botany during their Afghan collection trip. Four-wheeled drive vehicles such as the Landrover had made collecting in the vast and often more or less roadless areas of the Iranian highlands much easier, helped promote knowledge of the flora of the region and therefore became worthy of commemoration.

http://data.rbge.org.uk/herb/E00327336

http://data.rbge.org.uk/herb/E00327336

Ian Hedge's Photographic Collection. Afghanistan - 1962-69. RBGE Archive

Ian Hedge’s Photographic Collection. Afghanistan – 1962-69. RBGE Archive

The species was describes as inconspicuous  due to the greyish green
colour of all its parts a colour it shared with the Landrover.

 

In the absence of an attractive field picture of the plant in-situ how about some more Landover pictures….braw.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ian Hedge's Photographic Collection. Afghanistan - 1962-69. RBGE Archive

Ian Hedge’s Photographic Collection. Afghanistan – 1962-69. RBGE Archive

Ian Hedge's Photographic Collection. Afghanistan - 1962-69. RBGE Archive

Ian Hedge’s Photographic Collection. Afghanistan – 1962-69. RBGE Archive

Ian Hedge's Photographic Collection. Afghanistan - 1962-69. RBGE Archive

Ian Hedge’s Photographic Collection. Afghanistan – 1962-69. RBGE Archive