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The Copal Tree.

Arbor copalifera.

A LARGE tree of South America. It grows to a great height, and is tall, straight, and tolerably regular; the bark of the trunk is of a deep brown. The branches are bitter. The leaves are large and oblong, and they are blunt at the ends; they are deeply cut in at the edges, and if it were not that they are a great deal longer in proportion to their breadth, they would be very like those of the oak; the flowers are moderately large, and full of threads; the fruit is round, and of a blood red when ripe.

We use a resin which oozes from the bark of large trees of this species in great plenty, and is called copal; it is of a pale yellow colour, some times brownish, and often colourless, and like gum arabic; we have a way of calling it a gum, but it is truly a resin; and the yellow pieces of it are so bright and transparent, that they very much resemble the purest amber.

It is good against the whites, and against weaknesses left after the venereal disease; but it is not so much used on these occasions as it deserves. It is excellent for making varnishes; and what is commonly called amber varnish among our artists is made from it. Amber will make a very fine varnish, better than that of copal, or any other kind; but it is dear.

We sometimes see heads of canes of the colourless copal, which seem to be of amber, only they want its colour; these are made of the same resin in the East Indies, where it grows harder.


The Family Herbal, 1812, was written by John Hill.



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