Bursera Species, Elephant Tree, Torote

Bursera microphylla

Family: Burseraceae
Genus: Bursera (ber-SER-uh) (Info)
Species: microphylla (my-kro-FIL-uh) (Info)
Synonym:Elaphrium microphyllum




Water Requirements:

Drought-tolerant; suitable for xeriscaping

Sun Exposure:

Full Sun



Foliage Color:

Unknown - Tell us


12-15 ft. (3.6-4.7 m)


20-30 ft. (6-9 m)

30-40 ft. (9-12 m)

over 40 ft. (12 m)


USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)

USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)

USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 C (30 F)

USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 C (35 F)

Where to Grow:

Unknown - Tell us


Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Color:

White/Near White

Bloom Characteristics:

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Size:

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Time:

Mid Spring

Other details:

Unknown - Tell us

Soil pH requirements:

6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)

6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)

7.6 to 7.8 (mildly alkaline)

Patent Information:


Propagation Methods:

From semi-hardwood cuttings

From seed; direct sow outdoors in fall

Seed Collecting:

Allow seedheads to dry on plants; remove and collect seeds


This plant is said to grow outdoors in the following regions:

Ajo, Arizona

Chandler, Arizona

Mesa, Arizona

Phoenix, Arizona(4 reports)

Tempe, Arizona

Tucson, Arizona

Bostonia, California

Corona, California

Garden Grove, California

Rowland Heights, California

San Marino, California

Thousand Oaks, California

show all

Gardeners' Notes:


On Jul 2, 2021, DDruff from Mesa, AZ (Zone 9a) wrote:

I wanted one of these so badly for the backyard of our new Arizona high desert home nearly six years ago but was concerned about the growing requirements. Well, we found a few 4-inch seedlings at the nearby arboretum and planted three in hopes that one would survive. Well fast forward to today, and these little sticks we planted in our crappy caliche soil have grown incredibly well. They are nearly five feet tall and wide already and quite full. The trunks are swelling nicely, and they thrive on neglect. I water them maybe once a month in our arid climate, and they are very happy campers. The smell when you brush against them or clip them is magically delicious! I am so glad we took our chances with these handsome gentleman callers. They are perhaps my favorite plants in our landscape.


On May 23, 2017, randomguy4ever from Aliso Viejo, CA wrote:

Will this wonderful tree grow well in Las Vegas? (usda zone 9a) I think the somewhat cold winters will hinder the growth of this majestic tree.


On Apr 14, 2013, azant from Phoenix, AZ wrote:

What a neat species, grows well in Phoenix as stated previously here. I grow a few varieties, and they all smell slightly different but still intoxicating, almost as good as fresh cut C. myrrha.

For good form, get used to the idea of a little neglect.

I recommend Bursera suntui as well, similar scent to microphylla but sweeter. It has a similar leaf form as well.


On Apr 17, 2012, mrsS from Los Barrilles,
Mexico wrote:

I have many of these gorgeous trees at my home in Baja California South. They smell like pine+cinamon/nutmeg, and their bark peels off in scrolls that whistle/sing in the afternoon breezes. They don't want to be watered, it seems, and they appear to need the other plants/shrubs that they grow up with, i.e., occotilo, palo de arco/Esperanza, mesquite trees, Cardon cactus, choyo, + innumerable Baja scrub shrubs around them. The people next to me RAZED their property but left the Torote trees, and they all died within a year or two. (So sad). They grow beautifully on rocky hillsides, + actually seem to prefer this landscape, good air and good drainage. I am worried about the one that we built our house around, though, because it has a large sap leak at the base of its trunk. The sap is ... read more


On Feb 2, 2011, hortulaninobili from St. Louis, MO (Zone 6a) wrote:

Bursera microphylla:

For those of us not living in the arid desert of Southwestern United States, this plant still proves valuable as a potted plant. I purchased a plant several years ago from the Henry Shaw Cactus Society plant show at Missouri Botanical Garden as a small sapling. It has since grown well in a 8" clay pot outdoors during the growing season. Growing media should be approximately equal parts each of soil-less potting media, sand, a cherty gravel, and half-parts vermiculite and perlite. Adding a slow-release fertilizer to mix also is recommended. Once growing in the pot, use small pea gravel as a mulch atop the media in the pot. This will add weight and keep the pot from getting too dry (when growing in a pot, too dry can prove harmful even for drought tolerant... read more


On May 13, 2010, 3gardengirl from Phoenix, AZ wrote:

I have one growing in my front yard, Phoenix. It's a microphylla. Scent at first is tangerine-like, after that, it's overpowering. Just barely brushing the plant/tree gives off this scent.

The leaves are reputedly good for making into a tea for respiratory illness. I have distilled this plant both for the essential oil and for the hydrosol. The eo is quite abundant.

I am testing it now on ant bites on my thumb. It's quite promising. [you know those tiny, black ants that bite the heck out of you, if you live here. I have 4 in a circle around the base of my thumb] The itch woke me up twice in the middle of the night and the pain from one of them I'm well aware of. The whole thumb has been swollen and painful. 5-13-10

Most plants that grow in th... read more


On May 8, 2005, Xenomorf from Phoenix, AZ (Zone 9b) wrote:

This is a good drought tolerent tree for Phoenix. The foliage has a pleasant citrus orange and pine blend aroma. These photos of mine are of the tree growing at South Mountian Park in Phoenix while it was raining, so the bark has a wet look to it.
If you are seed collecting, you must be quick because as soon as the seeds are mature/ripe, the pod opens up and drops the seed immediately. If the seed pod is collected before it is ripe then seed is not viable. Try attaching a catch bag over the seed pod.

I've also seen this growing in the wild on the 'El Camino Del Diablo Trail' (Devils' Highway) that runs between Ajo and Wellton in Arizona through the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge.


On Aug 5, 2004, sonotaps from Phoenix, AZ wrote:

I have a bursera microphylla (hybrid) growing in my yard in NE Phoenix. Microphyllas have very small leaves compared to Bursera Hindsiana and Fagaroides and are not as cold sensitive. It's a beautiful tree and the scent is very strong, especially after rain (when we get some). My tree is almost 6 feet tall now. Its leaves are larger than the typical microphyllas growing naturally in Phoenix South Mountain park, and could actually be a naturally occuring hybrid with Fagaroides according to the nursery where I bought the plant. I can certainly see the difference in the leaves.

Well drained soil and some extra water is a good idea in our Phoenix summer for better growth and a better looking plant. That said, they are drought hardy and quite suitable for xeriscape.


On Oct 17, 2003, palmbob from Acton, CA (Zone 8b) wrote:

This is a good natural bonsai tree for So Cal and is very drought tolerant. It is a pretty low growing 'tree' up to about 5' (often only a 1', though), but can have branches that spread laterally for 4-5'. If watered well it can grow pretty fast (for a bonsai tree)... but care must be taken to have really well draining soil as it's apt to rot, especially in cool weather. The trunk of this tree has a papery thin bark that tends to flake off in large sections. It also has aromatic leaves that smell like an herb when touched or crushed.