Synonyms

Gomortega nitida Ruiz et Pavon

This tall tree, the only species in the Family Gomortegaceae (related to the Family Lauraceae), is endemic to southern Chile. The Mapuche Indians call it keule, queule, queuli (pronounced kay-ulay), linge, or hualhual (literally "vicinity") and may once have used it as a psychoactive substance. The round fruits have inebriating effects, especially when fresh, and may even be hallucinogenic, possibly as a result of the essential oils they contain (Schultes and Farnsworth 1982, 180*). The opposite lanceolate leaves are said to contain an essential oil (Schultes and Hofmann 1980,334*). A number of derivatives of methoxylated coumarins have been detected (D. McKenna 1995, 101 *). Chemical studies of the fruits have not yet been conducted (Ott 1993,408*). Unfortunately, this fruit tree is very rare. It is found only in a single one-hundred-square-mile expanse (Schultes and Hofmann 1980, 334*) in the coastal area between Maule and Arauco, somewhat south of Concepcion (Mosbach 1992, 79*). The tree appears to be on the brink of extinction. The plant was first described by the Spanish botanist Don Hipolito Ruiz, who encountered it on a 1777-1788 expedition to Peru and Chile. He reported that the leaves have a sour-astringent taste and, when chewed, stick to the teeth as a result of their resin content. Rubbed between the fingers, they exude a scent reminiscent of that of rosemary and turpentine. "The beautiful fruits are as large as small chicken eggs, are shiny, have a yellow color, and invite one to eat them. But you will get a headache if you eat too many of them" (Schultes 1980,97*). The yellow fruits contain an extremely hard stone. They ripen toward the end of April and are used to make marmalade (Donoso Zegers 1995, 94*). They are regarded as culinary delicacies. A fishing village of the Mapuche ("earthlings"), on the coast some 50 km north of Valdivia, is named Queule after this mysterious tree. None of its residents seems to have any knowledge of the tree or of its purported psychoactive use. The fruits may formerly have been used in the preparation of chicha; for this reason, they are still reputed to be

psychoactive.
 

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