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Elephant Tree

Bursera microphylla
Elaphrium microphylla

Pen & Ink © by Michael Plagens

Sketched from live specimen found at South Mountain Park, Phoenix, Arizona, USA.

Elephant Tree growing at South Mountain Park, photo © Michael Plagens.

Observed near Telegraph Pass in South Mountains, Phoenix, Arizona, Dec. 2008.

RANGE: Rare in scattered locations from Phoenix South Mountain Park thence south and west to Yuma and Organ Pipe Monument. In the Sonoran Desert of Baja California, the nearly frost-free climate allows for larger, handsome and beautiful trees.

TREE or SHRUB: Typically grows to tree size, but frost-killed plants often grow back looking shrubby. Bark on branches is grey or reddish brown and on older trunks it peels off in thin papery pieces. The twigs are conspicuously thickened; Mature trees show the distinctive enlarged trunk that narrows rapidly above.

LEAVES: Shiny green, pinately compound leaves emit strong resin odor as do the cut twigs which also ooze a clear sap. The sap is under considerable pressure and will gum up and poinson the mouthparts of leaf-munching insects.


FLOWERS: Small and inconspicuous in mid to late spring.

FRUIT: A resinous berry with one three-angled seed, Dec. to Feb.

Burseraceae -- Torchwood Family

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Copyright Michael J. Plagens, 1999-2009