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 subdivision 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.