AZ Arboretums

Bursera microphylla

Desert zinnia

Common: Elephant tree, Torote, Elephant bursera, Copal
Family: Burseraceae
Southeastern California and southwestern Arizona, as well as Baja California and from Sonora to Zacatecas, Mexico.
Light: Prefers full sun
Soil: Well drained
Water: Drought tolerant, but will drop its leaves during severe moisture stress. Provide supplemental water through the summer to keep it looking good.

This plant's habitat is the rocky slopes of arid desert mountains, 1,000 to 2,500 ft. elevation. Very stout tree whose tapering branches resemble an elephant's trunk and legs.

In areas protected from frost, can reach a height of 18 feet with a 20 foot spread. Elsewhere, may only be the size of a shrub, with a typical size of 6 to 8 feet. Dark green leaves, pinnately compound, to 2 inches. 10 to 30 narrow leaflets, each 1/4" long. Bark is whitish to gray, papery and peeling. Wood, bark and foliage are aromatic.

Whitish flowers, less than 1/4" long, followed by red, 3-angled, 1/4" long very aromatic fruit with yellowish, leathery skin. Blooms in July and August.

Branches are very sensitive to frost, but roots will product new growth. Leaves produce copal, a resin once used as incense. Small fruits are a favorite of birds. Two species of Bursera in Arizona.