128. Elephant Tree

The elephant tree is the northernmost species of the frankincense and myrrh family of plants. It is native to the deserts of the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico. 


As you can see, these trees have stout, tapered branches and trunks that look a bit like elephant legs. The leaves fall off in drought conditions, but the trees survive these periods by using water stored in their trunks. 


The outer bark of elephant trees is thin and easily peels off, exposing the green underbark. The green bark allows the plants to photosynthesize even when they are leafless. 


The delicate bark leaves the elephant tree vulnerable to hungry desert herbivores, but it fights back with chemical defenses. Its stems and leaves contain resin that is pleasantly fragrant to humans, but distasteful to plant eaters.