This is a more desert adapted Bursera. Most Sonoran Burseras grow in thornscrub or tropical deciduous forest where there are prolonged periods without rain, but there is always a reliable growing season during the monsoons. Bursera microphylla (and to a lesser extent, Bursera hindsiana) grow in extreme aridity.
This tree has a very succulent trunk (thus the name elephant tree), which stores water. It has small, pinnate leaves that are drought deciduous. This tree was and is important for a variety of practical and ceremonial uses of native people within its range.
Bursera microphylla is abundant in the central gulf coast sub-division of the Sonoran Desert, but is otherwise occasional, preferring warm south-facing slopes, rocky areas, and small desert canyons. It can withstand some freezing, but is limited in northward distribution by cold.