Of the tree called guaçuma or West Indian elm and of its fruit.
Translated by Laurel Hanson ’23
The West Indian elm is a large tree that bears fruit like the mulberry, and its leaves are almost like those of the mulberry tree, but smaller. The Indians make a beverage from this fruit, from which they fatten up like pigs. In order to do this, they put the fruit in water and from that water, mixed with the mashed fruit, the beverage is made. The Indians become fat within only a few days of using it, and so do the horses, when they want to drink it, because others do not want to. The wood of these trees is very light, and from it the Indians on the Mainland make sticks or canes for cargo, which will be discussed further at the appropriate time, as well as in Chapter IX of the previous book. This tree is common across the Indies; I say common because it is found on these islands and on the Mainland. It is one of the best trees or timber for making very good gunpowder, with which I have experimented to make munitions for this fortress of the city of Santo Domingo. Gunpowder manufacturers who understand it well say that a wood like this one, in order to make the best gunpowder possible, does not exist anywhere else, even if one were to use willow from Germany or the shoots or canes of the hazelnut.