INP tab Commiphora Resource distribution

The Kunene Region has numerous species of commiphora, many of which are endemic or near endemic to Namibia, and several are endemic to that region alone. This genus, which consists of shrubs and trees, belongs to the Burseraceae, a family well known for its aromatic gums and resins, many of which have healing properties. Because of the low growth form of some of the endemic commiphora species, they are often collectively referred to as the dwarf commiphoras.

Commiphora wildii is usually a low growing shrub with thick, semi-succulent stems, branching near the ground. These dwarf trees can be found growing on the rocky slopes of hills and mountains in the arid western part of Kunene region adjacent to the Skeleton Coast Park. They are near endemic to Namibia, extending from Southern Angola to just south of the Ugab River. Most individuals tend to grow horizontally, close to the ground, with a few branches growing upward. This is to escape the cold south western winds. In areas that are protected from the winds, individual plants are more erect. The bark is grey to reddish brown, smooth and shiny. Leaves are deeply lobed, resembling the leaves of an oak tree, hence the English common name ‘oak-leaved corkwood’. The plant is deciduous, producing its first leaves in December and losing them again at the start of winter. Flowers are small, greenish yellow and borne on long stalks in the spring. The fruit are small, almost round, bright red berries.

Harvesting of the resin takes place in the Puros, Sanitatas, Orupembe, Marienfluss and Okondjombo conservancies and community forests. Between two and six tons are harvested each year, depending on demand. The resin is transported to Opuwo where the essential oil is extracted by steam distillation at the Opuwo Processing Facility. Raw resin is also sold to companies which have the technology to do the distillation themselves. The amount harvested is limited by demand and cash flow rather than the amount of resin available.