Book IX, Chapter XVI
Of the tree called corbana.
Translated by Lucy Brown ’23
Corbana is a tree found on this island and many other parts of these Indies: it is an imposing tree and its wood is so hard that no other tree here can equal it; and it is so difficult to lumber, that when splitting or cutting this wood the blade of the axe bends of breaks. In this fortress of Santo Domingo (which I hold on behalf of Their Majesties), I have had some axles for artillery wagons and other heavy-artillery carts made from this wood, given how hard it is, as no oak or holm oak is equal to it. And besides its hardness it has another great property, and it is that it never rots underground, whether one drives a beam or a pole or a stick from the tree into the ground, as many will attest; but since everything here is new, one doesn’t know it from one’s own experience, but rather from the information obtained from the Indians. Some who build houses have begun to use the wood from this corbana; because the wood that is most often used, mahogany, is already known to rot, even though, despite its faults, it is still used most often. But if the corbana is found to be good moving forward, and time proves that it is so, it will be held in high esteem for building. Its leaf is delicate, and it produces some subtle white, somewhat pinkish, flowers, and its fruit are like peapods containing five or six or more plain lentils, and some bigger than lentils, and very hard. These are the same trees I think that are found in the Mainland, in the province of Nicaragua; and there the Christians called them black wood trees, which the Indians use to shade other trees that they value highly, which they call cacao; because they say that these black wood trees never grow old nor can be destroyed, which I think are this same corbana trees. I wrote about this black wood and its durability underground in the previous book, when the cacao trees, also called cacaguat, were described.
Image from Plantae Asiaticae rariores, published cerca 1830, by Nathaniel Wallich