Vern.: “Guggul”, “Gugal”.
Commiphora roxburghii (Stocks) Engl.
Shrubs up to 4 m tall; branches aromatic, thorny and knotty with papery bark. Leaves sessile, alternate or fascicled, 1-3-foliolate; leaflets glabrous, the terminal sessile or subsessile, obovate, serrate (sometimes serrate only towards the apex), 1-5 cm long, 0.5-2.5 cm broad, lateral when present sessile, serrate or entire, less than half the size of the terminal leaflet. Plants dimorphic, one having bisexual and male flowers, and the other having female flowers with staminodes. Bisexual and male flowers sessile, 3-5 mm long, usually red, sometimes pinkish white. Bracts 2, opposite, glandular hairy. Calyx fused basally with the disc; tubular or urceolate, 1-2 mm long; lobes usually triangular, valvate, glandular hairy outside. Petals reflexed, acute, 3-5 mm long, c. 1 mm broad. Stamens 8, very rarely 10, 3-5 mm long, free, alternately short and long, included, sometimes equalling the petals. Disc conspicuous, toothed; shorter stamens inserted alternately in deeper sinuses. Ovary 2-loculed with sessile 2-lobed stigma. Fruit up to 1 cm long, red when ripe, marked with 2 white longitudinal lines (or grooves), mucronate; mesocarp yellow, rarely orange, 4 lined and fused at the base; epicarp dehiscing from the base upwards on maturation. In female flowers, sepals 2 mm long, petals 3-4 mm long, 1 mm broad; staminodes 8, alternately short and long, l-1.5 mm long; ovary and fruit the same as in bisexual flowers.
Fl. Per. December July.
Type: ad Bellary, Wight 2426 (E).
Distribution: W. Pakistan, India.
As stated earlier 3 types of flowers are met with in this taxon. Of these, the functionally female flowers are borne on a separate plant, and have staminodes that apparently look like well developed stamens but they contain only sterile pollen grains. This was determined by acetocarmine and cottonblue-lactophenol tests. The bagged flowers did not produce any fruits. This excludes the possibility of apomixis. As normal fruits are met with in these plants, it is inferred that pollen grains from bisexual or male flowers, present on separate plants are needed for the production of normal fruits.
It is the source of Guggul or Indian Bdellium, a gum-resin that exudes from the branches. It is largely used as an incense, in medicine and perfumery, and as a substitute for African Bdellium. It is also used to adulterate myrrh.