When time and funding permit, each flower (each plant species) will have its own page, and its own PDF, and eventually its own PPT so that professors and students have plenty of material on Guatemala (and Honduras, etc) to study.

Heliconia adflexa, Coban, Guatemala, Hotel Monja Blanca, FLAAR, by Nicholas Hellmuth

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This space is for flowers
we have recently found and photographed.

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Mushrooms and lichen as dye colorants for Maya weaving

Posted Mar. 18, 2019

At Parque Nacional Yaxha Nakum Naranjo the combined team of FLAAR Mesoamerica working with the park administrators through IDAEH and CONAP have found that the most common large mushroom around the plazas and pyramids of Yaxha is a source of dye colorants.

Plus, we have learned through research th at the Aztecs and other cultures of Mexico also used lichen to make colorants.

So we will produce all this information (and photos of the mushrooms and lichen) and also mention every vine, plant, tree, etc that was available to the Mayan people for dye colorants from local Peten resources.

2 April 2019, 10 am (to 11 am), Museo Ixchel on campus of UFM, Zona 10.

 


 

Giant “tree fern” found near Yaxha, Peten, Guatemala

Posted Feb. 25, 2019

Acrostichum-danaeifolium-mangrove-fern

Photograph by Dr Nicholas Hellmuth, with a Nikon D810, Nikon AF-Micro-NIKKOR 200mm f/4D IF-ED Macro lens, f/13, ISO 1,250

When you look at aerial photos of Parque Nacional Yaxha Nakum Naranjo (or Google maps in satellite view) you notice a unique single rectangular area with zero tree forest. Since every aguada, bajo, or savanna ecosystem in the same park (and in adjacent Tikal national park and in all parks to the east in Belize) are oval or irregular shape, to find a pure rectangle documents it’s “Made by the Maya” (several thousand years ago).

So I was curious about what plants we would find here, so last week we spent several hours out in the Mayan rain forest hiking around the southeast side and southeast corner around to the east side.

All forest trees stop at the edge of this Poza Maya or Aguada Maya, as it is named. But inside the rectangle the soil is moist (since the ancient Maya put a layer of material to keep the water from escaping). Growing in this bog-like eco-system is a thick entanglement of tall plants whose fronds remained me of palm trees but when Elena Siekavizza reached these plants she recognized they were giant ferns. Once she got back to our main research office she identified them as Acrostichum danaeifolium. We also found edible begonias in the bog.

Most of these plants have not been registered as being present in Parque Nacional Yaxha Nakum Naranjo. The giant “tree fern” is totally different than ones everywhere in the cloud forest of Alta Verapaz. So if you like rare and photogenic plants, plan a trip to the Yaxha national park. Restaurante El Portal de Yaxha (aldea of La Maquina, at crossroads of main paved highway to turnoff towards Yaxha park) offers 4WD service to reach Poza Maya (if booked far in advance). Ecolodge El Sombrero provides comfortable hotel at entrance to Yaxha park.

 


 

Lecture & Photo Exhibits on Waterbirds of the Mayan Jungle Lakes & Swamps

Posted Feb. 17, 2019

Dr Nicholas Hellmuth has been accomplishing research on waterbirds in 4th-9th century Mayan murals, sculptured stelae, and painted or incised ceramics for 40 years. We now have exhibit quality high-resolution photographs on the waterbirds of Lake Yaxha, between the Mayan ruins of Topoxte Island and Yaxha. So for any bird-watching organization, we have a great visual experience for you.

The team of photographers of FLAAR (USA) and FLAAR Mesoamerica (Guatemala) have Nikon D5 and Canon EOS 1DX Mark II digital cameras. So we can use high ISO to be able to use 1/2000th or even 1/3000th of a second to “stop each bird in flight.”

We have 300mm lens for the Canon and 200mm, 400mm, 600mm, and 800mm prime Nikon (Nikkor) lenses for bird photography, plus of course Gitzo tripods, Wimberley Gimbals, etc. to facilitate capturing nice photographs of these birds of the Mayan world.

So for any university, natural history museum, zoological park, bird watching organization, or any social club, we have photos to provide a Mayan experience to your conference, class, seminar, lecture, or other event.

Contact: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it is one way to contact us, or by Skype.


 

Would you or your botanical garden like a presentation on AQUATIC orchids of the Mayan lakes of Guatemala?

Posted Feb. 15, 2019

If you would like a lecture on aquatic orchids (that Dr Hellmuth discovered in Lake Yaxha, Peten, Guatemala) we now have high-resolution photographs of Dr Nicholas Hellmuth out in the remote lakes documenting the fact that these orchids have their roots at water level (and frequently down into the water of the lake).

These orchids have not “fallen from tree limbs into the lake.”

These orchids are not growing from seeds fallen from the shore. These orchids grow on reeds several meters away from the shore (over the water).

If you would like a lecture on dye colorants (for Mayan weaving), or on what foods the Classic Maya could harvest from the surrounding rain forests (with no slash-and-burn milpa agriculture), and especially if you would like to know what SuperFoods the Maya had available for thousands of years (more than just maize, beans, and squash), he can lecture in Spanish, German, and English, or can be simultaneously translated into your local language.

Contact This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it to arrange to fly Dr Nicholas Hellmuth to your part of the world.

And also consider visiting Parque Nacional Yaxha Nakum Naranjo in Guatemala, to see these aquatic orchids in full bloom (plus of course all the other orchids: terrestrial and arboreal).

Dr Nicholas (as is his nickname around the world) has been in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and Belize since age 16. So he is familiar with Mayan archaeology, art, iconography, plus the plants of the rain forests surrounding the ancient Mayan cities.


 

3-dimensional Lichen? Between Yaxha and Nakum, Peten, Guatemala

Posted Jan. 30, 2019

More than 70% of the trees in Parque Nacional Yaxha Nakum Naranjo have white lichen on their trunks (most jiote and most pimienta gorda trees escape lichen). There is rose-colored, orange, pink, reddish, light green and a few other colors of thin lichen on tree trunks (but white is over 70%, in some areas over 90%). We are looking for 3-dimensional lichen. Maria Alejandra Gutierrez, FLAAR Mesoamerica, found and photographed this lichen on the road between Yaxha and Nakum in mid-January 2019.

3 dimentional lichen at Yaxha 3 dimentional lichen at Yaxha

Camera Canon EOS-1D Xmark II, lens Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM; settings: f/2.8, speed 1/8000, ISO 1000.
Photo by Maria Alejandra Gutierrez

Photo by Dr Nicholas Hellmuth
with an IPhone Xs

We will try to find this branch the next time we are in the 17 km stretch between Yaxha and Nakum. Perhaps the crusty whitish lichen is curling up because the branch is no longer alive. I say this because over 90% of the lichen on millions of trees in the park is normally flat when on a growing tree trunk. Lichen is a different shape along the shores of Lake Yaxha on dead branches over the water (where the lake has risen and frees formerly on the old dry shore are now dead because the lake level has risen). However the lake shore lichen shape is because the branches are water soaked plus are one to two meters above the water level (the lower trunks are in one to two meters of risen lake level).

Since we do not have a PhD in lichen or mushrooms, I am not able to identify the thin red spaghetti under the white lichen (in the photograph at the left). But it is rare to find spaghetti-like lichen or mushrooms in the park. Red Cuscuta parasitic vines are common, but this is not Cuscuta. Perhaps the thin orange spaghetti growth is either lichen or moss or some other growth. We will work at finding more of this and photographing it with better focus next time.

The Italian pasta-like material in the photograph at the left has a Cuscuta vine going under and around it. Cuscuta is “everywhere” along the shores of Lake Yaxha and in dry areas between Yaxha and Nakum. But I photographed this Italian pasta mass because it looks to me more like 3-dimensional lichen than the thin orange spaghetti in the photo at the left.

I am interested in finding and photographing all 3-dimensional lichens since these are more likely to be a source of colorants. The Aztec and their neighbors used both mushrooms and lichen for colorants. The Maya had mushrooms available and we have found the colorant mushroom all over Yaxha and Nakum and in between. But we have not yet found lichen, nor have we yet found good photo albums and checklists of lichens of Peten. For Tikal there is a thesis on mushrooms of Tikal. Would help to have a thesis or dissertation on lichens of Parque Nacional Yaxha Nakum Naranjo.


 

 

Panorama photography equipment options for national parks: reviews & recommendations; and also tips of what to avoid.

Posted December 31, 2018

The beauty and attractiveness of this large national park is much more than archaeological remains of pyramids, temples, palaces, ballcourts, acropolises, plazas, causeways (Sacbe), etc.

Yaxha Acropolis

Click to enlarge image.
Lots of plants out there. Lots of Mayan pyramids buried under these trees and vines. But just imagine how many awesome tropical flowers you can find during the season these trees flower (March, April, May and many other months).

Botanist Cyrus Lundell estimated there were 2,000 plants in the central Peten rain forests. Other botanists suggest there are over 200 species of trees. The other 1800 plants are vines, orchids, bromeliads, and plants of the shores, marshes, and bogs. So there is huge potential for botanical research at Parque Nacional Yaxha Nakum Naranjo.

In the 1970’s I spent five years doing the map of all the monumental architecture plus the smaller house mounds. But today (2018-2019) I come to Yaxha to study the neo-tropical flora and fauna of this park.

In the long run it will be essential to do aerial photography, preferably with a helicopter, since here you can use high-resolution cameras. Drones will pester local birds and 90% of the cameras on drones are simple point-and-shoot and overly wide-angle: cameras for bikers and hikers on their weekend and vacation adventures. We prefer serious photography, so we use a Nikon D5 and a Canon EOS 1DX Mark II camera.

But until we find a helpful individual or company with a helicopter who can donate photo opportunities, we show the remarkable rain forest with panoramas taken from the top of pyramids and acropolises at Yaxha and Nakum. We hope to get back to Naranjo and do panoramic photograph there with archaeologists Vilma Fialko, Raul Noriega and their capable team.

We have L-shaped panorama tripod heads (Bogen 3288 (Manfrotto 340)). We have the second-generation GigaPan, the most awesome panorama camera yet invented. Plus already in the 1990’s we had the BetterLight tri-linear scanner large-format digital panoramic camera system.

At Photokina 2016 we spent quality time in the NOVOFLEX booth; they have a diverse range of L-shaped panorama equipment with quality Made in Germany. But until their equipment is available to evaluate, we will be writing about the L-shaped Bogen 3288 (Manfrotto 340) on a Manfrotto 303PLUS panoramic photography head system and the GigaPan panorama photography systems.

Nakum Forest Maya Peten Landscape

Click to enlarge image.
We close this peek into the rain forests of Parque Nacional Yaxha Nakum Naranjo with another panorama by the FLAAR Mesoamerica photography team. All these photos are to show the world the natural beauty that you can experience here.

The hotel Ecolodge El Sombrero has many of the same trees over the hotel restaurant and directly in front of your hotel room. This hotel is at the entrance to the park, to the left directly at the entrance gates.

 


 

 

Terrestrial orchids, 2 species, Senahu, Alta Verapaz, Guatemala

Posted Dec. 27, 2018

Since Alta Verapaz has significantly higher humidity than Peten you get even more orchids, bromeliads, and other epiphytes. But Alta Verapaz also has terrestrial orchids. One, red-orange, is very common. It grows as a “roadside weed” along most rural unpaved roads around Senahu and many other areas of Alta Verapaz.

We found lots of this terrestrial orchid blooming on Christmas Day (yes, I work almost every day of the year, including my birthday, New Year’s, etc; there are so many plants and pollinators and eco-systems to learn about, I don’t want to waste a day).

Terrestrial-orchids-2-species-Senahu-Alta_Verapaz-Guatemala-FLAAR-Mesoamerica Terrestrial-orchids-2-species-Senahu-Alta_Verapaz-Guatemala-FLAAR-Mesoamerica

Click here to enlarge image
Camera NIKON D810, Nikon AF-Micro-NIKKOR 200mm f/4D IF-ED Macro, f/13 speed 1/250, ISO 4000, photo by Dr Nicholas Hellmuth

Click here to enlarge image
Camera NIKON D810, Nikon AF-Micro-NIKKOR 200mm f/4D IF-ED Macro, f/13 speed 1/250, ISO 6400, photo by Dr Nicholas Hellmuth

Senaida Ba, our Q’eqchi’ Mayan plant identifier and photo assistant told me she had also seen terrestrial orchids similar in color and size to the aquatic Bletia purpurea that we found in a dozen areas around Lake Yaxha, Peten. We found this pink-purple orchid blooming on the same roadside hills as the red-orange ones.

Difference is that the pink-purple ones had no leaves: literally, the flower stalk came straight out of the ground. Senaida found one place where all the flowers had wilted but there was a set of leaves.

We will send these photos to orchid experts to make sure we have a proper name before we add the name to an update of this news item.

 


 

 

Gorgeous flowers of happy parasitic vine at Yaxha, Peten

Posted Dec. 19, 2018

Yaxha lake north shore below camp Psittacanthus species parasitic vine orange flower

Camera Canon EOS-1D X Mark II, lens 300mm, f/0, f/2.8 speed 1/400, ISO 500, photo by Alejandra Gutierrez

This week we are back in Parque Nacional Yaxha Nakum Naranjo (Peten, Guatemala) to continue research on flora and fauna. Since we are not aware of any studies of parasitic vines at Tikal or Yaxha or other national parks in recent years, we are working on making a list of all the treetop vines.

Psittacanthus is one of a dozen treetop vines, but this one is a parasite. Orchids and bromeliads are not parasites. Since the vine is so high in trees we have to use 600mm, 800mm, and 1000mm telephoto lenses, and even then we can’t capture an individual bunch of flowers. Much to our surprise, the last week of November we found a Psittacanthus vine flowering down at eye-level, so we could do close-ups. Here are samples.

Yaxha lake north shore below camp Psittacanthus species parasitic vine orange flower

Camera NIKON D810, lens 105.0 mm, f/3.0, f/9 speed 1/100, ISO 1000, photo by Dr Nicholas Hellmuth

We estimate this is either Psittacanthus macrantherus, Psittacanthus auriculatus or Psittacanthus calyculatus. Each species is slightly different colors depending on whether in Oaxaca, or Belize or Peten, and how long the flower has been open (so you see no yellow on the Psittacanthus here). We will update this page as soon as a botanist with experience with Family Loranthaceae of Mesoamerica can communicate with us.

You can experience these flowers in many locations of the park, especially near Grupo Maler and Blom Sacbe. Pleasant hotel at park entrance is nice place to stay: Ecolodge El Sombrero.

 


 

 

Pachira aquatica, zapoton, pumpo blooming for Happy Holidays 2018

Posted Dec. 17, 2018

Pachira aquatica zapoton pumpo Guatemala edible fruit

Click here to enlarge image
Camera NIKON D810, lens 200mm, f/4, f/11.0 speed 1/250, ISO 500, photo by Dr Nicholas Hellmuth

About 7 to 9 years ago, I planted seeds of zapoton from the Costa Sur (sea level) in our FLAAR Mayan Ethnobotanical Research Garden, at 1500 meters above sea level. This week I was so happy to see it bloom for the first time. What a great Christmas present for my heart and soul to see this flower (roughly comparable to structure of flowers it its relatives Ceiba aesculifolia and Pseudobombax ellipticum).

The city’s main botanical garden, just a few kilometers away, has the same tree happily blooming every year, so I knew that it would survive the colder climate, higher altitude, and lack of growing along a stream or lake.

Pachira aquatica grows along Rio Dulce, Lake Izabal, Rio San Pedro (Peten) and the aguadas behind Tikal’s visitors center. We are now searching for Pachira aquatica along the Rio Ixtinto, Rio Holmul, and Lake Yaxha (all part of Parque Nacional Yaxha Nakum Naranjo).

 


 

 

Just identified an additional large bromeliad: Nakum, Peten, Guatemala

Posted Dec 13, 2018

Aechmea bromeliifolia at Yaxha

Click here to enlarge image
Camera NIKON D810, lens 200mm, f/4, f/10.0 speed 1/50, ISO 100, photo by Dr Nicholas Hellmuth

We have found and identified most of the really large bromeliads at Yaxha and Topoxte Island. Then I noticed that our photos of a bromeliad from Aug 14th had not been identified.

Turns out it's Aechmea bromeliifolia. Now that we know it's at Nakum and blooming in August (2018) we need to return in August 2019 and find it at Yaxha, Topoxte Island, Naranjo, etc.

We continue to search the Parque Nacional Yaxha Nakum Naranjo for large bromeliad species and all the other undocumented plants of this part of Central America.

 


 
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Ecosystems, Savanna plants

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Bushes and small trees

Fungi and Lichens

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Plants and trees used to produce incense

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Ethnobotany site page Donations acknowled Botton DONATE NOW

SUBJECTS TO BE COVERED DURING NEXT 6 MONTHS

Fruits (typical misnomer mishmash of Spanish language)

Fruits (vines or cacti)

Flowers, sacred

Plants or trees that are used to produce incense

We Thank Gitzo, 90% of the photographs of plants, flowers and trees in Guatemala are photographed using a Gitzo tripod, available from Manfrotto Distribution.
We thank Hoodman, All images on this site are taken with RAW CF memory cards courtesy of Hoodman.
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Read article on Achiote, Bixa orellana, annatto, natural plant dye for coloring (and flavoring) food (especially cacao drink) in Guatemala and Mexico.
Read article on Cuajilote or Caiba: Parmentiera aculeata, a forgotten fruit.
Read article on Split leaf philodendron, Monstera deliciosa.
Read article on Gonolobus, an edible vine from Asclepiadaceae Family.
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Flor de Mayo,Plumeria rubia, plumeria alba, plumeria obtusa. Edible flower used to flavor cacao
Guanaba, annona squamosa, Chincuya, Annona purpurea, Sugar apple, Chirimoya

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