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Lansan tree. © Jeremy Holden / Fauna & Flora

Lansan tree. © Jeremy Holden / Fauna & Flora

Lansan tree

Incense of the Caribbean


The lansan tree is found only on the Windward Islands of Dominica, Guadeloupe, Martinique and Saint Lucia. Its main stronghold is the island of Saint Lucia, where the tree plays a vital ecological, economic and cultural role.

The species accounts for a significant proportion (up to 10% in places) of the island’s remaining rainforest cover, and its fleshy fruit is a vital food source for native wildlife. Like other members of the incense tree family, lansan produces an aromatic resin. This is highly prized by Saint Lucians, particularly for use as slow-burning incense in household shrines and churches, and is also traded overseas, providing a vital revenue stream for some of the poorer members of society.

Fascinating facts about lansan trees

    The lansan tree is a distant relative of the gum trees that produce frankincense

    The global lansan population has reduced by an estimated 60% within the past decade.

    The lansan tree is almost certainly extinct in three of the seven island states where it originally occurred

    Sean Cyril and lansan tree © Jeremy Holden / Fauna & Flora

    Sean Cyril and lansan tree © Jeremy Holden / Fauna & Flora

    As well as being widely used in religious ceremonies, the highly aromatic resin is also used to repel mosquitoes and – it is believed – evil spirits


    The number of Saint Lucians that use lansan resin.

Jenny Daltry and Sean Cyril with dead lansan tree. © Jeremy Holden / Fauna & Flora

Jenny Daltry and Sean Cyril with dead lansan tree. © Jeremy Holden / Fauna & Flora

Lansan trees are declining throughout their range.

Why is the lansan tree endangered?

Lansan resin is traditionally extracted by slashing the bark of the tree, but indiscriminate use of this method often causes irreparable damage; trees are susceptible to infection and rotting if they are tapped excessively. Unregulated tapping of trees, compounded by agricultural expansion, has led to dramatic declines in lansan populations throughout the Eastern Caribbean. The lansan tree has lost at least 60% of its original range as a result of overexploitation and deforestation. It is believed to have disappeared completely from Grenada, St Kitts and Nevis, and St Vincent and the Grenadines, although reintroduction is feasible in the latter two countries.

How can we help save the lansan tree?

At the request of the Saint Lucia Forestry Department, Fauna & Flora began working to ensure the long-term survival of the species and find ways to safeguard this iconic tree without compromising the economic and cultural benefits afforded by its valuable resin.

A three-year experimental study undertaken by Fauna & Flora, forestry staff and volunteers from Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust not only confirmed that traditional harvesting methods quickly kill the trees, but also led to the discovery of a new method for extracting resin that is more productive and less detrimental to the health of the trees.

Tappers are now being trained in the new, safer extraction method and licensed to harvest the resin from specific areas approved by the forestry department. It is hoped that in future there may be considerable scope to create job opportunities related to the sustainable harvesting of this renewable resource. This could include, for example, marketing Saint Lucian frankincense candles, toiletries and other products.

Sean Cyril with lansan tree. © Jeremy Holden / Fauna & Flora

Sean Cyril with lansan tree. © Jeremy Holden / Fauna & Flora

Sean Cyril harvesting resin from a marked lansan tree. (Note more context needed for accurate caption - is this from the approved forest area?).

Trees in peril

The lansan tree is one of over 10,000 tree species that are threatened with extinction.

Please help us to protect endangered tree species by donating to Fauna & Flora today.