This species as a nice thick
stem, and the cut branches and nipped buds exude a wonderful fragrance
that soon fills the room and lingers long. The sent remains on the
Description: C. myrrha is a shrub or small
pachycaul tree (to about 5 m tall) remarkable for its rather
succulent, usually distinct short trunk, with an exceptional ability to
retain its water content and withstand drought for long periods. It is
characterized by numerous spreading stiff spiny twigs sparsely covered
with small, irregular leaves. C. myrrha is a very variable species. The
different forms seem to merge so impercetibly that the recognition of
infraspecific taxa is often difficult.
Stem: The trunk is swollen, flaky, thick, hairless throughout, it
has peeling silvery, whitish, reddish or bluish grey papery-bark, the
under-bark is green and photosynthetic, it produces knotted spiny
branches, and branchlets that stand out at right-angles, ending in a
sharp spine. The stem exudate a hardly scented, viscid, translucent
yellowish gum-resin. The wood is yellowish-white
Leaves: Small and single, or often 3-foliolate (pinnately
compound) and alternately arranged. They are chartaceous, greyish green
or glaucous, very variable in shape and size,
sometimes very minute, they may be found on both short and long petioles (1-10
mm long). They may be elliptic, spathulate or lanceolate, attenuate,
cuneate, rounded or truncate at the base, rounded or acute
apically, 6-44 mm long, 3-20 mm wide, with 3-4 rather weak main veins
somewhat tooth-letted at the apex, the lateral smooth, sometime with two
tiny leaflets at the base of the main leaflet. The tree sheds its leaves
in autumn; the leaves turn yellow before falling off..
Flowers: Tiny and inconspicuous, borne in more or less clustered
panicles. All Commiphora species are dioecious. Male flowers usually
precocious, 3-4 mm long
Fruit: Ovate, smooth, brown, 2-4 mm long, surrounded at base by a
4-toothed calyx, and supported on a very short stalk
Seed: Smooth with gentle swellings.
USES: Myrrh is a
constituent of perfumes and incense, and was highly prized in ancient
times. It is referred in the Bible as an ingredient in the holy oil of
the Jews. Myrrh was used as a wine preservative in the ancient world. It
was used by Egyptians in embalming mixtures (Kyphi). It was also used as
an aromatic for perfumes, funerals, and insect repellents. Ancient Greek
and Roman physicians used it to treat wounds, and prescribed it
internally as a digestive aid and menstruation promoter. It was also
used as a remedy for numerous infections, including leprosy and
syphilis. Myrrh was an important trade item in ancient times. It is used
today as an aid to repel tooth decay and gum disease.
The oleo-gum resin exudes from fissures or incisions in the bark as a
pale yellow liquid, which dries into reddish-brown irregular masses or
clumps of the size of a walnut. The commercial myrrh is said to be
extracted from at least 10 different Commiphora species.
Scientific name: Commiphora
Myrrha Mr. E. M. Holmes
in: Amer. Jour. Pharm., 1897, p. 110
Origin: C. myrrha is native to the Horn area of eastern
Africa (Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia) and adjacent Arabia (Yemen and
southwestern Saudi Arabia).
Habitat: The plant occurs in arid regions
normally found in open Acacia, Commiphora bushland in slopes and valleys
on shallow soil, chiefly over limestone. Altitude: 250-1300 m. Receives
moderate but regular rainfall. Mean annual rainfall: 230-300 mm.
Common Names include: Myrrh, Myrrh tree.
Etymology: The word Myrrh is derived
from a Hebrew and Arabic word "mur, murr or maror ",
The genus name Commiphora is from the
Greek "kommi", meaning "gum", and "phoros",
- Balsamodendron myrrha. Nees
D. Hanbury, in Science Papers, p. 378
- Commiphora cispidata Chiov.
- Commiphora coriacea Engl.
- Commiphora molmol (Engl.) Engl.
- Commiphora myrrha (Nees) Engl.
var. molmol Engl.
- Commiphora playfairii (Oliv.)
Engl. var. benadirensis Chiov.
NOTE: Botanically, there is
still uncertainty about the origin and identity of the various species
The trunk is swollen with a peeling silvery, reddish or
bluish-grey papery-bark, the under-bark is green and photosynthetic.
Cultivation: The branches
easily sprout roots and shoots and makes it a favorite bonsai species
amongst bonsai enthusiasts. It is a vigorous grower but plants are
sensitive to frost. Quite easily actually, and strangely enough, they are
killed more from love than neglect. Over-watering in winter is probably
the biggest cause of death with this species. They have very soft wood
and if it receives too much water in the dry months can quite easily
rot. It does not put out a deep taproot but develops a good network of
smaller roots and can be planted in quite shallow pots. From a bonsai
point of view, another very desirable feature of this species is its
ability to heal from quite drastic surgery. Not only do the scars of a
cut close over very quickly, the bark grows remarkably quickly as well,
and it takes just a couple of years for it to cover all but the largest
of scars, and even these will disappear before too long.
Propagation: By means of seed and cuttings.