Lizabeth Paravisini-Gebert: Book VIII, Chapter X (Of the Tree Called Yaruma and Its Fruit)

Book VIII, Chapter X

Of the tree called yaruma[1] and its fruit.

Translated by Lizabeth Paravisini-Gebert

Yaruma is a large tree resembling the higuera loca or mad fig tree,[2] with large palm-shaped leaves, larger than the fig trees of Spain, but similar in appearance. They bear a fruit as long as a finger that looks like a thick worm; and this fruit is sweet, and the tree is as big as a medium-size walnut tree, with some as large as big walnuts. The wood is not good since it is light, hollow, and fragile. The Indians valued these trees highly and said that they were good to cure sores: which I have not seen done, as I have seen other things that I will mention in the appropriate place, but I have I not failed to listen to Christians, creditable men, praising them, and even confirming to me that they had experimented with it in their persons. And they say it is caustic, and that by mashing the tender shoots of the branches of this tree and placing this over the sore, even if it is an old one, it eats away the bad flesh; then they place it on the raw healthy flesh and it soothes it, and with continued applications, it cleans and completely heals the sore. There are men worthy of trust in this city who claim to have followed this treatment and healed. This is a tree that is very abundant, on this island as well as in many others, and in the Mainland, and they are good shadow trees and of a pleasant appearance. The leaves are green on the outside, with the other side being a brownish grey that tends towards white.

[1] Ambay or Cecropia adenopus Martius. Mentioned in P. Nieremberg’s Historiae naturae maximae peregrinae (Antwerp, 1635) as Yaruma Oviedi.

[2] Ficus carica.

Image: Oil painting by Marianne North, 1873