In response to:

Trees in Themselves from the March 23, 2023 issue

To the Editors:

In his review of Jared Farmer’s Elderflora: A Modern History of Ancient Trees [NYR, March 23], Verlyn Klinkenborg states that the name of the Brazil nut in Portuguese is castanha, and adds, “though one would like to know their ancient indigenous names.”

However, castanha is merely a generic name in Portuguese, like nut. The Brazil nut is called castanha do Pará (from the state of Pará in the north of Brazil), although it was first described by Alexander von Humboldt way north of Pará state, between Guiana and Venezuela. As for its ancient indigenous name, it is also known in Brazil as tocari and tururi. It’s not even a nut but a seed, the same way in which the castanha de caju (another indigenous name) is not a nut but the peduncle of a delicious fruit, the caju.

Élide Valarini Oliver
Professor of Brazilian and Comparative Literature
Director of the Center for Portuguese Studies
Editor of the Santa Barbara Portuguese Studies
University of California at Santa Barbara