Boswellia elongata

This is Homhil at its most beautiful – green and vibrant after the winter rains. Unfortunately this is but a faint echo of past glory, when the land was in fact a forest of Boswellia elongata.

The distance between each tree is huge, compared to what it should be, and once was. Only photos from past decades will show the disastrous development here. Imagine a forest with hundreds of trees the size of these two, with additional hundreds of young trees growing alongside them!

The two trees in the foreground are standing close to each other, a rare exception. Yet they are nearing the end of their life expectancy of around 100 years.

If you look at the ground, it might look green, but there is not a single young Boswellia elongata growing there. These trees produce a large number of seeds, but whenever a seed germinates, the goats are quick to eat them before they reach the proper size to reach maturity in the long term.

Each and every cyclone damage these old trees to the point where they topple over and are lost forever. One might think that this is just the order of things, but there are no seedlings or young trees to take over, as they have all been browsed by the goats. This has been going on for decades upon decades.

Seeing the ground so vibrant of full of grasses and herbs one might wonder if this is really an issue, but these grasses will soon be eaten to a point where the ground is nothing but dust! This is February, and many, many months until the next winter rains. This is a problem throughout Socotra, and the Socotris and the international community is well aware of the challenges.

At the edges of the dying forest, near the creek to the north, there is a nursery, or enclosure, where a few tens of seedlings are gathering momentum to reach a goat-safe size. Until then, the fences will stay up, and caretakers will look after them and ensure the irrigation is working as per requirements. This is a project funded and run by foreign initiatives, but hopefully the Socotris will take ownership to rescuing one of the many endemic species from extinction.

There have been educational programs of Socotris (PhDs and masters in forestry), aiming to transfer best practices and scientific knowledge to the Socotris so they will become self-reliant in preserving Socotra’s threatened flora.


Elevation: 274 meters.

This is the complete list of all the 10 Boswellia species found in the Socotra Archipelago:

Boswellia ameero
Boswellia asplenifolia
Boswellia bullata
Boswellia dioscoridis
Boswellia elongata
Boswellia nana
Boswellia popoviana
Boswellia scopulorum
Boswellia socotrana

Found only on the island of Samha:
Boswellia samhaensis

In addition there are numerous hybrids and varieties that will keep botanists busy.

Read more:
The challenges in seed regeneration of the endemic Boswellia species on Socotra.

Development of a population of Boswellia elongata Balf. F. in Homhil nature sanctuary, Socotra island (Yemen)

A summary of 13 research papers spanning twenty years of biodiversity research and nature conservation in the Socotra Archipelago.

Boswellia elongata

Last updated on 14 October 2023