back to article Humans, insects set to OBLITERATE frankincense supply

Scientists are warning that frankincense supplies are failing fast, and that 90 per cent of the world’s supply could be gone in the next 50 years, thanks to some spectacularly unwise men. Teams from Wageningen University in the Netherlands and Ethiopia have published results from the first large scale study of frankincense …


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  1. Rich 2


    I'm not suggesting that it doesn't matter that there's an ecological catastrophe awaiting the poor ol' frankincense trees; I think it's rather sad, but I'm sure (errr.... yea... pretty sure) that there are some rather more pressing issues in the ecological disaster sphere of activity that warrants some attention and (heaven forbid) ACTION(?) . It's not as if anyone (or anything?) would actually miss the frankincense, is it?

    1. rurwin

      It's heavily used in perfumes as well (according to Wikipedia,) as in cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. In fact anywhere you need a nice pong. It's edible too.

      1. Mark Broadhurst
        IT Angle

        Well if it gets rid of a lot of the celeb perfumes like "Ke$sha's pong", its not all that bad.

        It basically means that perfume will cost more. I doubt the trees will just disapear as their value will increase as they become more rare and demand rises.

        While trees don't have a predictable growth pattern I would have thought that enough people would be trying to grow them that they wont be wiped out ?

    2. Charles 9 Silver badge

      How about this?

      Frankincense is being investigated by the PHARMACEUTICAL industry for its potential as a MEDICINE. This is one great fear about the loss of biodiversity. What good is finding out a certain obscure plant happens to contain a very useful medicine (and many of our medicines and other techs got their start from natural sources) if you learn they died out already?

  2. aahjnnot

    Supply and demand?

    As the article says, alternative land uses are more profitable. So supply will naturally dwindle and the price will rise as a result. Production will then become more profitable, and the remaining growers will become more committed to maintaining the health of their trees. Relax - unless you're a believer in marxism or fanatical ecology, all will be well. We'll just have a slightly smaller world market in frankincense in future years.

    1. laird cummings
      Thumb Down

      If the trees had a predictable growth cycle, this would likely be true.

      But they don't.

      So it isn't.

      1. Tom 35

        I want it NOW

        Give someone the choice of $1 now or $10 in ten years most will go for the quick cash. New trees are not quick cash.

  3. Alfie
    IT Angle

    Its also used extensively in aromatherapy, and the price has been rising for the past few years. I'm guessing the difficulties in propagation are why nobody has been able to expand production up until now.

    1. Big-nosed Pengie

      Used in aromatherapy?

      I suppose if it puts some of the snake oil salesmen out of business it won't be all bad, then.

  4. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

    Shurely Shome Mishtake...?

    No one has mentioned climate change yet.

    Could this be the first natural disaster NOT to be attributed to increased plant food?

  5. Mike Hunt 1

    Problem / Solution?

    Now that we know that Frankincense is "endangered" by overfarming / bad farming / laziness then surely we, as a country need to send millions of pounds of tax payers money to these countries to let them buy guns, sorry, meant to type, save this precious natural resource.

    We will soon start to see these bushes where the frankincense grows turning up in the UK, demanding asylum - you look, back in history, we didn't do anything to save the Spagetti tree, and now they are all gone.

    I am sure if it was the Gold bit of the three wise men / christmas story then the UK government would be more concerned - but hey, it's ok, Gordon gave all our gold away, so no worries there........

    Got to go now, nurses on way with sedatives........

  6. MasterPerfumer

    It all rolls downhill...

    I'm a master incense maker as well as a master perfumer. This is disastrous not simply for ecological reasons, but economic ones as well. The industry that produces frankincense, myrrh, and other resins used in perfume and incense products, also provide much needed jobs in "developing countries". Additionally, the Omani sultanate has put the squeeze in the markets and has funneled massive amounts of profits to groups that engage in terror and violence around the world. This is not simply about long horn beetles, and alternative land use. This is about economics, politics on the global scale. But "on the ground" it's about the right to eat and feed your family as well as the right to live free from terror and organized crime.

    1. Visible Otters
      Thumb Up


      "I'm a master incense maker as well as a master perfumer"

      That's just a great way to start a post. I like to imagine you've been lurking here since about 1997 waiting for the right story to come up to use it.

      1. JulianB

        ...or even 1097

        1. Your Retarded


          A pleasure to meet your acquaintance. Maybe you could settle a question I have had for a while.

          Gold, pretty comfortable with that.

          Frankincense, good idea what that is, seen it for sale and so on.

          Myrrh? WTF is Myrrh?

          1. Charles 9 Silver badge

            Perhaps I can assist.

            Myrrh, like frankincense, is a plant product. In this case, it comes from the genus Commiphora, a genus of trees known to grow in very arid, rocky soil. The two have a lot in common. Both come from trees and both are harvested by "bleeding" the trees. AND both were considered extremely valuable in their day (because of their rarity). The line from "We Three Kings" describes it as "bitter perfume", and there's basis for that. The name comes from Aramaic and essentially describes it as bitter. And Myrrh was indeed used as a perfume (also like frankincense, it could be used as incense).

            I admit, I used Wikipedia, but the article here is pretty cut-and-dry with plenty of references. It's enough for a general understanding.


    2. Hilmi Al-kindy

      Funnelling massive amounts of profits to groups engaged in terror?

      Where did you get that bit of information Master Perfumer and military intelligence analyst? That's the sort of trash that keeps on spouting out of racist people who assume all us Arabs are terrorists. I am an Omani and Oman is considered one of the sources of the finest Frankincense in the world. We use it extensively, but the truth of the matter is, people don't pay enough money to justify conserving it. Most of the money from Frankincense goes to Dhofari mountain folk who are simple herdsmen or to the Badu who are dessert Nomads. And that money amounts to peanuts! To make the assumption that we use frankincense to fund terror is laughable and stupid. We make more than 80% of our money from oil and Frankincense is an immeasurably small fraction of a fraction of our income. If we were to fund terrorists, we must be disparate indeed to use that minuscule amount of income to do it. Unless we were doing it that way to insult the terrorists. Besides, look it up online. Oman is one of the safest countries in the world. Think first before talking out of your a$$

  7. John A Blackley

    A good plague when you need one

    never arrives. Reducing the population of the planet to about one-tenth of its current levels would be beneficial (not to the ones 'reduced', obviously).

    1. JC 2

      @ A good plague when you need one

      Brilliant. Kill off most of the humans so that some day, more humans can exist so we're back to where we started today, finding equilibrium.

      1. laird cummings

        So - no plagues. Maybe a good nuking will do, instead? All for the sake of being 'green,' mind you.

        Sure, why not? I've thought up screwier plans...

        (Hand me my coat, will ya..? The one with the doomsday device in the left pocket)

  8. Anonymous Coward

    I'd love to help.....

    But the money tree in my backyard is already overharvested and definitely in danger of extinction!!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      money tree

      Could you please provide me some seeds of your tree.

      I would grow some too, so as to avoid extinction.

  9. heyrick Silver badge

    Presents from Tesco?

    If only the next Messiah would be alive that long, and not killed by some fundamentalist nutjob who knows for a fact that this Messiah isn't the right Messiah (the voices in his head told him so...).

    1. ElNumbre
      Thumb Up

      Not the messiah?

      Not the messiah....

      (all together)

      Just a very naughty boy.

  10. Just Thinking

    opium, rubber and maple syrup

    is how I lost my virginity

    1. TwistUrCapBack
      Thumb Up


    2. Someone Else Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Clearly, the post of the month (at least)!

    3. IronSteve
  11. Michael H.F. Wilkinson

    I'm incensed!!

    Sorry, couldn't resist.

    I am actually allergic to the smoke of frankincense (a good reason to avoid certain churches and temples), but that does not mean I would like to see it disappear.

  12. Gazareth
    Thumb Up


    Good name.

    1. perlcat

      What I thought.

      It'd be hard to take the man seriously, but I suppose we could always get character references from Dr. Wanker and Professor Tosser.

  13. Zippy the Pinhead

    Perhaps Modern science can help

    Perhaps cloning or genetic modification to produce seedlings that are able to grow in a more predictable manner?

    1. Michael Dunn

      Remember how they cultivate rare orchids - tissue culture in lab media must be the answer.

  14. MasterPerfumer

    @Your Retarded and @Visible Otters

    @Your Retarded (which should be: You're , not Your) To answer your question: WTF is myrrh?

    :) Myrrh is also a resin that is harvested from commifora trees, commonly found in the middle east.

    @Visible Otters - sorry to disappoint you. I simply saw the story on the Google news feed and thought I would read it, since I really am a master incense maker and perfumer. My log-in information, as mods can verify, includes my domain name. I am the owner of Desert Fathers Incense, easily found via Google, should you care to stop by, have a virtual cup of Ethiopian Fair Trade coffee and browse my credentials as well as my site. Best wishes to you anyway.

    I would wish you all a Merry Christmas but in Orthodox world that follows the Julian calendar (which covers the Copts and Ethiopians as well as the Slavic churches), it doesn't really occur until January 7. That means, that while all you westerners are buying your frankincense at full price, my customers can catch a break with the "after Christmas sale".

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