is Palo Santo endangered?

Our Palo Santo: from Peru, to You

Family: Burseraceae • Genus: Bursera • Species: Bursera graveolens

We work with a supplier who supports the protection & reforestation of the South American Dry Forests, where our beloved Palo Santo tree comes from, supporting the planting of hundreds of Palo Santo seedlings every year.

Our Palo Santo comes from authorized farmers and permit holders for the ethical harvest of our Palo Santo. The harvested wood comes from dead, fallen trees. Living trees are never cut down to make our Palo Santo.

Is Palo Santo endangered?

Much controversy revolves around Palo Santo, in regards to it being an endangered species, or even close to extinct. We will do our best to clarify this issue. “Palo Santo” is a popular name that is used for several different and unrelated botanical species. There are several unique species that are sold around the world under the common name “Palo Santo”. This is one of the main reasons why scientists and environmentalists use the scientific classification of a species, and not the usual name of a tree or plant when conducting scientific research. However, this creates confusion when the same “common name” is used for different different trees that are not related to each other and do not have the same botanical origin.

“Bursera graveolens” is the correct botanical classification for “Palo Santo”, which is used as incense. Unlike information that circulated around social media, this species is not critically endangered according to the IUCN or CITES Red List. This false information that has often been shared on social media. The environmental status of Palo Santo (Bursera graveolens) has been declared as “least concern” meaning that this species is not endangered, according to data from the IUCN Red List assessment (published in August 2019) and stable tree populations throughout Central America and South have been documented.

“Bulnesia sarmientoi” is a completely different species of tree that appears in CITES and in the IUCN Red List database as an endangered species. The common name for this species is also referred to as “Palo Santo”. This species is endangered due to its use as wood raw material for construction on an industrial scale. The current threat status of this completely separate tree species is largely responsible for contributing to the wave of erroneous information circulating on social media.

Palo Santo endangered in Peru?

In Peru, Palo Santo (Bursera graveolens) is a tree that is regulated by the national agricultural agencies due to its inherent nature of being an environmentally-sensitive forestry product. As such, it will potentially always be subject to unethical logging practices in pursuit of illegal commercial gain. This is true of not just Palo Santo (Bursera graveolens), but of all forestry and food products from the wild. This is the primary reason for the foundation of the environmental regulatory agencies that exist today. It is those agencies that ultimately oversee the sustainable management and legal regulation of all forest resources, including Palo Santo (Bursera graveolens). There exists a number of permits & formally documented environmental plans that are required to receive official government-issued permission to collect, process, and/or distribute any products of forest origin. This permission is granted to the native communities who manage vast areas of rural land, often thousands of hectares of them, where there exists an abundance of natural forest resources, which can be sustainably utilized to help economically empower these same communities. 

The country of Perú originally recognized the endangered status of Palo Santo (Bursera graveolens) in 2006. The basis behind this initial classification was due to the widespread logging that had been taking place in the dry forests of Northern Perú – commercial agriculture farms & an increasing demand for cattle fields, entirely unrelated to the collection of Palo Santo (Bursera graveolens) for commercial purposes, such as production of incense. To address the issue of environmental conservation of the nation’s natural habits and combat the illegal extraction of unauthorized forestry products, the country of Perú later established an agency named “SERFOR,”. The trade of forestry products is fully supported by the local communities of the dry forests, as well as endorsed by the environmental division of the Peruvian government. Today, any legal source of forestry products in the country of Perú must work directly with SERFOR, the only agency in the nation that legally permits and authorizes the trade of Palo Santo (Bursera graveolens) products of verifiably legitimate and ethical origin. 

If buying Bursera graveolens from a sustainably produced source, you are not hurting wild populations of Palo Santo. In fact, you may be helping to conserve Palo Santo and its habitat by purchasing sustainably produced forest products, providing local communities with an economic incentive to conserve the forest rather than simply cutting trees down and selling them for timber.  

Our sustainable producers never cut a living Palo Santo tree down. The wood is only harvested from dead, fallen trees.