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In a first, Environment Authority cultivates wild myrrh seeds in Dhofar

27 May 2024 In a first, Environment Authority cultivates wild myrrh seeds in Dhofar By MOHAMMED TAHA

Muscat – The Environment Authority (EA) has achieved a significant milestone by successfully cultivating wild myrrh seeds in its nursery in Salalah, outside their original habitat. 

This accomplishment marks a rare feat, as the myrrh trees were propagated from seeds in a climate vastly different from their natural environment – a first for the sultanate of Oman.

An EA official emphasised the importance of this achievement, highlighting its potential to open new avenues for preserving myrrh trees and bolstering their population in their native regions. 

Myrrh trees, belonging to the frankincense family, are characterised by their small, perennial and spiny nature, reaching heights up to 3m. They typically thrive in semi-desert environments or rain shadow areas in the Dhofar mountains, extending to the Najd region.

The dwindling number of myrrh trees in Oman’s wild habitats prompted the EA to act. With fewer than 250 trees remaining in Oman, it conducted a comprehensive survey in 2023, revealing the species to be in a ‘very critical stage’. 

The EA advocates urgent reassessment of the species’ national classification in alignment with the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s guidelines. 

The EA stressed the need for joint efforts of all stakeholders and relevant authorities at regional and international levels to safeguard this threatened species.

Myrrh tree resin has been historically utilised for various purposes such as perfumes, incense, and medicine. Similar to frankincense, myrrh resin is produced by trees of the Commiphora genus, distinct from the Boswellia trees that yield frankincense.

A study conducted by the EA’s Office for Conservation of Environment in Dhofar identified the primary threats to myrrh trees, with overgrazing being the most significant challenge, followed by pests, drought, and unsustainable harvesting methods. 

In response to these threats, the EA established a dedicated garden for myrrh trees aimed at conserving ‘mother trees’ and setting up a nursery for myrrh seed and seedling production.

The study assessed the age of myrrh trees, with the oldest estimated to be around 40 years.

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