Book X, Chapter VIII
Of the rushes found on this Island of Hispaniola.
Translated by Lizabeth Paravisini-Gebert
There are rushes on the banks of lakes and ponds of this island, but they are quite smaller than those we have in Spain. There are others here that in Spain we call India rushes, which old and aged men carry as walking staffs or as signs of authority in Castile and other parts. These are three-cornered and thick, and others are thinner and lighter. However, these are not rushes, although some refer to them as such; I include them here to correct those who do, because they are not truly rushes but the leaves of a certain type of palm found in this and other islands of these Indies, and in greater numbers in the Mainland. It seemed apt to someone to call them rushes, because in their thickness these staffs seem to resemble rushes in the shape of the wood; but these, which in Spain are called rushes, here are in fact palms, and these leaves grow from the ground up, very tall and many of them together, and they don’t become a large tree but a wide circle of these leaves. And the stems between the leaves or their sheath or spine is what they use as staffs. These stems bear leaves very high up from the ground, like a palm tree. Some are very thick, and the thinner ones are taken to Spain to be used as staffs for elderly men; but there are ones to be found that are thicker than two or three of those they take over, and very light or of lower weight.
Image: Antique print of Calamus rotang.