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.
Brugmansia arborea, Florifundia
Photo by Sofia Monzon with a Canon EOS Rebel T2i.
We have had a web page on cashew nuts for several years. But when flying from Tehran to Istanbul in early August, the NY Times that they handed out on the Turkish Airlines flight had an article on Pepsi Co. of India and their work with seeking ways to handle the fruit of the cashew apple. Since I have been photographing cashew flowers and cashew apples for many years throughout Guatemala, I thought now that more people know about the cashew apple would be a good time to prepare an introductory bibliography.
We are finding out all the diverse range of uses of guava, of every part of the plant.
Much to our surprise, it turned out we had a guava tree in our own garden: never knew since the garden is like a thick jungle at times. But when it bloomed, Sofia Monzon took great photos of the flowers.
You can see the full article Here.
We at FLAAR institute are studying tobacco of the Maya and Aztec. As part of our project we are raising tobacco plants (not to smoke ourselves but to appreciate the natural beauty of their flowers).
Tobacco and the various other leaves used by the Maya of Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, Mexico, and El Salvador are a traditional indigenous cultural feature of importance in their medicine and religion.
Plus most of the ingredients of Maya and Aztec snuff and cigars have gorgeous flowers. Although I do not smoke myself already at age 19 I had discovered a Maya vase showing a person smoking a cigar (a 9th century vase in the Tomb of the Jade Jaguar which I discovered while a student at Harvard doing archaeological work for the University of Pennsylvania Museum at Tikal, El Peten, Guatemala).
Plus while doing research in the archives of Sevilla, Spain and Guatemala CIty, on the Spanish documents describing the Cholti Lacandon Maya cigars I learned more about this venerable tradition.
n other words, it is important to understand the natural beauty associated with tobacco and its several thousand years association with the advanced cultures of prehispanic Mesoamerica.
A lot of botanical research tends to be done in the "Maya area" of Peten. Yet over the last year we have found that Izabal, and adjacent Alta Verapaz, offer considerable diversity of eco-systems to allow finding lots of the utilitarian plants which we seek.
Our goal is to locate, and photograph (when flowering or fruiting) as many of the plants in our list of utilitarian plants of the Mayan people.
We will be spending the coming week in Izabal, starting with the Frutas del Mundo facilities about 20 minutes before Rio Dulce. Dwight Carter has developed a great place to do botanical research here.
Christmas week is a great time to study plants in the area around Lake Atitlan. Our focus is edible plants and plants which produce dye for cotton.
We are photographing cotton: they are a tree here. Not a mere bush. Found beautiful examples of sacatinta plant (produces blue dye, like indigo). But the flower is a gorgeous orange.
Found Canec flowering and tree tomato at altitudes much higher than Lake Atitlan. Tree tomato looks like a granadilla but is a tomato. It is the size of a normal fruit tree.
It helps to document that the Maya eat many more things than maize, beans, squash, and much more than root crops too. Plus, the diet in every eco-system was different, since some plants grow only at high altitudes.
In addition to studying indigenous tropical fruits, nuts, vegetables, and grains of Mesoamerica, we are also doing research on edible leaves (lots more than just spinach-like options).
Last week we were near Mazatenango to donate a set of photographic enlargements of cacao fruit to the local cacao growers association of San Antonio Suchitepequez. When in this area we always select a hotel which has as large a garden as possible, in the hopes of finding Mesoamerican plants in bloom. There is one hotel which has a small milpa in the back, plus two cashew nut trees.
Every month a completely different plant is in full bloom: six months ago it was the cashew trees. Last week it was the chipilin plant, Crotalaria longirostrata. Although it is the leaves which are eaten, I spent my time focusing on the pretty yellow flowers. Later this week we will add an entire web page and photo essay on chipilin flowers.
High-resolution digital photographs of sacred trees and sacred flowers are now on exhibit at the Missouri Botanical Garden, St Louis, Missouri. These photographs, by Nicholas Hellmuth and Sofia Monzon, show the ceiba tree and flowers of most of the relatives of this sacred tree.
The exhibit continues through to November 18, 2012.
Here are front covers of a whole series of photo-essays on Pachira aquatica. The flower of this or related species is pictured in Classic Maya art of Peten. Research project on all trees of Maya Mesoamerica with conical spines
I have been photographing the spines on the trunks of Ceiba pentandra trees for several decades. I raised Ceiba when I was creating the Yaxha Parque Nacional in Peten. And today I raise Ceiba in the ethnobotanical garden surrounding our office.
But there are many more trees with spines than just Ceiba pentandra. So we have a long-range project to identify and then find and photograph each species. Below is a set of specimens that we located over the Christmas holidays (we work all holidays, as they are a convenient time to get out of the office and into the rain forests and fields).
Spices, flavoring, condiments, herbs to flavor cacao. Then we will have a series of publications on spices used by the Maya (and Aztec) to flavor cacao. It turns out that in the time before the arrival of the Spanish that cacao was primarily a vehicle for adding a diverse slew of tasty flowers and other plant chemicals to your body.
I drink dark chocolate every day so I can stay alert in the mid-afternoon (when I should be taking a siesta). But it is straight dark chocolate: I add only milk and brown sugar (real brown sugar, not white sugar colored with molasses).
But if I had been an Aztec priest or Maya lord, I would be adding a remarkable range of flowers, herbs, seeds, and other chemically active plant substances. The Aztec or Maya lord would probably select whether he wanted simply to get high, or have visions, or jump into the hammock with a dozen ladies-in-waiting.
Sophie and Michael Coe, and several other knowledgeable scholars, have written on the various flavorings for cacao. But almost never are the plants and flowers shown in detail.
When I was corresponding with Professor Coe a few years ago, he encouraged me to look deeper into the flavorings for cacao, so I have been working on this.
I now have an ample list of cacao flavorings (significantly longer than lists in most books on cacao of pre-Columbian Mesoamerica). Now our goal is to identify each plant and see where we can find each plant, flower, or spice in Guatemala. And go photograph it at high resolution.
We will start publishing our preliminary results as soon as funding is available.
We had so many field trips to find and photograph Maya ethnobotanical species that I can't even list them all. Even the entire Christmas week we were out photographing herbs, spices, fruits in small villages around Rio Dulce (guided by Kevin Lock).
I then found three "ceiba caves," namely "caves" in the lower trunk portion of giant sacred Ceiba pentandra trees. You could even walk into these hollow openings; their interior space was hollowed out by decades of termines.
We also did a second visit to tap blood sap from one of the three species of Guatemalan tree that has potential for making the human heart which is mentioned in the Popol Vuh.
Plus we found lots of pochote trees, some great spiny ceiba trees (of both species). So there will be lots of new FLAAR Reports for 2012 on our Maya ethnobotanical discoveries.
Mirtha Cano, biologist at the Parque Nactional Tikal has organized an exhibit of photographs of flora and fauna of Tikal by Nicholas Hellmuth, Jaime Leonardo, and Eduardo Sacayon. You can visit this photo exhibitwhen you are at Tikal.
If your zoo, botanical garden, university, or garden club would like a comparable exhibit in your home town anywhere in the world (and would like Dr Hellmuth to lecture on Mayan ethnobotany and/or Mayan ethnozoology: on sacred plants and animals in Mayan murals, art and religious iconography) all this is available to you. Contact info
Mayan ethnobotany, agriculture, crops, foods, sacred plants, flowers, trees of Guatemala, Belize, Mexico, and Honduras.
This web site is for individuals interested in the iconography of flowers in Mayan art
Mayan murals, stelae sculptures, architectural facades, and painted or incised pottery are decorated with flowers, fruits, vegetables, and sacred trees. Likewise there are depictions in Mayan art of insects, birds, fish, turtles, reptiles, and diverse other species.
If you took every single identification of every plant and animal in the monographs and articles of the last 100 years (and sadly even in the past 40 years), too many of the identifications are not correct. So a major goal of this web site is to provide the raw material: the close-up photos of the flowers and plant parts so that botanists as well as iconographers can have a better chance at recognizing the actual species.
A good example of the rare instances of proper identification is the work of botanist Charles Zidar (Missouri Botanical Garden). But about 95% of the identifications of insects in Mayan art are incorrect. And I bet over 50% of the identifications of flowers (by writers other than Zidar) are in error as well. All of these identifications will be re-written, with photographic evidence, as this web site expands to cover all the pertinent species.
English name: Water lily. Spanish Name: Lirio de Agua. Latin name: Nymphaea ampla. Photo by: Jaime Leonardo, staff photographer 2007-2011 at FLAAR Mesoamerica
If you are an epigrapher, we will also work to provide material useful to you
It is primarily bats, turtles, deer, felines and birds that are the natural species depicted in Mayan hieroglyphs, so most of our work on the iconography of Mayan hieroglyphic writing will be in our separate web site on ethnozoology. But there are occasional flowers and ceiba spines in Mayan hieroglyphs, so we also cover Mayan epigraphy related to plants.
We are building a second, separate, website to cover Mayan ethnozoology. We have been doing extensive photography of insects, arachnids, fish, turtles, bats, felines, venomous toads and other creatures that were of interest to the Classic Maya over the last several years. This Mayan ethnozoology web site should be launched hopefully by the first week of July.
This resource is dedicated to botanists and botany students,
During the 1970's through 1980's, hundreds of students and dozens of professors and researchers came to Guatemala and Mexico to study the plants and animals. They had experiences with local plants and animals they will remember their entire life.
Today, due to the economic recession, it is harder for botanists and students to get to Latin America. And security is a growing concern. So we hope our photographs, notes, and bibliographies will assist botanists and students to experience Guatemala at least via photographs. And over time, we hope they will be able to encounter the plants and animals and ecology of Central America in person.
Costa Rica has the best reputation for national parks and eco-tourism, but frankly Guatemala is so beautiful I still enjoy every second I am in this country. The people in the villages throughout Guatemala are friendly and helpful. Botanists such as Mirtha Cano and Priscila Sandoval share their knowledge. Local people who know their local flowers and unusual fruits for decades, such as Julian Mariona, have shared their information and experience with us every time we visit him at Posada Caribe, one hour upstream from Sayaxche, Petén.
We will tend to publish in PowerPoint, to assist both professors and students
Although you can project a PDF in a classroom, we feel that the horizontal format of a PPT file will be more useful to instructors and students, as well as to interested lay people. The horizontal format of a PowerPoint slide allows us to show more plants side-by-side.
Our first editions will be primarily photographs
We have so many thousands of photographs, that we will prefer to issue these images of flowers, fruits, and vegetables first. Then later we will add more text.
We feel that a picture is truly worth more than a thousand words.
If you are an avid gardener, feel welcome to visit our web site
Whether you are gardening in Antigua Guatemala, Petén, or California, Florida, or Asia, you might enjoy adding some sacred Mayan flowers, or healthy Mayan fruits and vegetables to your garden.
For students of religion obviously we wish to provide you useful facts
Incense is a major part of Mayan ethnobotany. Sacred flowers are used in rituals. So the study of religion and plants go together in most cultures, especially prehispanic.
Medicinal plants are helpful to everyone
Producing medicinal plants provides jobs and incomes for the entire production chain. And some medicinal plants provide fewer side affects than potent modern chemical medicines. So the study of medicinal plants is helpful to many people.
But equally well, many native "medicinal" plants are toxic so we do not recommend experimenting on your own.
There are already abundant books and articles on medicinal plants of Mexico and medicinal plants of Guatemala, so medicinal plants are much better known than sacred plants or even edible plants. Thus our focus is on those medicinal plants which also have other uses: for example, manitas, Chiranthodendron pentadactylon, is a major medicinal plant (especially in Verapaz areas) but was a flavoring for cacao drinks a thousand years ago.
For economic development, our comments on species are intended to help
There are endless opportunities for economic development by creating projects whereby botanists and realistic business people provide suggestions to local people on how the local people can grow indigenous plants to improve their livelihood. Note that merely suggesting to local people about some plant is not enough: a realistic business partner should be part of the team.
FLAAR comes from a background in academia but a long time ago we left the "ivory tower" and learned about the real world outside the university walls. In advanced digital imaging FLAAR is a consultant to Fortune 500 companies and major corporations in Europe, Canada, Korea, China, and Taiwan. We would enjoy being able to provide our experience to local villages in Guatemala for them to market indigenous plants first nationally and then internationally. As soon as funding would be available, we are ready, able, and willing to work with joint ventures.
As an archaeologist myself, this web site is intended to be a resource
I am an archaeologist whose field work since 1960's has been in areas of memorable natural beauty. I have learned from local people and from botanists here in Guatemala. The forests, swamps, and fields are filled with truly remarkable plants. I wish to share all this with the rest of the world through my photographs on this web site and in the PDFs and PowerPoint files.
Instructors, and professors (and students) of Latin American culture
The average European and North America eats Maya, Aztec, or Peruvian foods every day. Even at McDonalds or Burger King you are eating tomatoes: the word tomato comes from the Aztec language, Nahuatl.
Potatoes come from South America. The Lima bean is named after the capital of Peru. Lima beans were used by the Moche civilization as a means of distributing messages (by decorations on the beans).
But this web site is primarily focused on the plants of the Maya area of southern Mexico and adjacent Central America. One of our goals in this site is to provide teachers, instructors and professors with the photographic illustrations so they can better impart the message of healthy living through natural plants. We are eager to work with foundations, governments, NGO's, universities, and botanical gardens to provide courses, manuals, and lecture material based on our experience and our tons of high-resolution photographs of plants, flowers, fruits, nuts, vegetables and useful plant parts.
If you ate more foods from Mesoamerica you might be healthier than a diet of fast food. However by no means were the Classic Maya fanatics in organic food: the cigars they smoked would have obliterated any health benefits of their fruits, vegetables, and nuts. And the tasty chemicals they delighted in imbibing during ceremonies would make a Harvard dorm or Disco seem like dullsville (sorry, I was a student at Harvard in the 1960's; fortunately sufficiently conservative that I survived intact!). Luckily none of the drugs that are common at Discos in the 1980's or 1990's were available to me as a student in the 1960's.
Today I get high on being outside in remote areas doing photography and discovering new information about healthy fruits, nuts, and vegetables. You don't need drugs, or alcohol, if you are researching exciting topics. However I am not a prude, and do enjoy a glass of wine after the end of a really successful day of photography. Plus my great uncle founded Southern Comfort liquor corporation, so while a student I had plenty of free booze to help enjoy the annual Harvard-Yale football games in the stadium. But today I prefer to do research on tropical plants and animals in the evenings and weekends and have not consumed much liquor in the last thirty years.
Photographers, both pros and innovative hobby photographers
We intend our photographs of flowers, trees, fruits, and plants to provide inspiration, in addition to imparting botanical information. We seek to help botanists see which lenses, which accessories, and which lighting can produce better photographs for their projects.
English name: Water lily. Spanish name: Lirio de Agua. Latin name: Nymphaea ampla. Photo by: Jaime Leonardo, staff photographer 2007-2011 at FLAAR Mesoamerica
FLAAR is available as consultant
Whether for TV, for Internet, for a book or conference, FLAAR has decades of experience in Mexico and Central America and we are available as consultants.
FLAAR is available to give photogenic lectures in your hometown
We will be preparing abstracts of diverse colorful lectures that you can ask that we bring to your hometown. Cost is round-trip airfare, basic meals and lodging, and a fair and reasonable lecture fee (we do not charge as much as politicians!).
Our coverage of ethnobotany is primarily on Mayan plants
This new web site brings you the plants and ethno-botany of the Maya people of pre-Columbian Mesoamerica. We are aware of the Aztec, Mixtec, Toltec, Zapotec, Classic Veracruz, and Western Mexican civilizations and cultures as well, but to maintain a clear focus we concentrate on the pre-Classic, Classic, Post Classic and present-day Maya peoples.
In Mexico we cover Tabasco, Chiapas, Yucatan, Quintana Roo, and Campeche. I have done archaeological field work in these countries for decades, so have a basic familiarity with their flora and fauna. But you will notice that the primary focus is Guatemala, especially Alta Verapaz and adjacent Petén departments.
Since Maya culture began in the hot humid lowlands (Izapa area of Chiapas into Petén), most of the research is in the lowlands. But there were and still are hundreds of Mayan communities in the Highlands, so we study the botany of the Highlands as well, especially since the ancient book of the Popol Vuh is from the Quiche Highlands.
However the original of the Popol Vuh was conceived already in the lowlands between Tapachula, Chiapas and adjacent piedmont of Guatemala. There are scenes from the Popol Vuh on Preclassic stelae of Izapa, and most of the plants and animals mentioned in the Popol Vuh are lowland species, with other species, such as Croton, being in the intermediate area of the Verapaz region.
Travel to Mexico is fraught with challenges these days; it is simply more realistic to cover Guatemala.
Our coverage is useful plants
This is a web site dedicated to ethnobotany: the study of plants within a culture. There are plenty of capable ethnographers, so we do not attempt to do ethnographic research per se. Instead we concentrate on obtaining a high level, high resolution archive of digital images of utilitarian plants.
We are interested in far more than merely edible plants: any plant that was utilized we are keen to learn about, find it, photograph it extensively, and publish this material (free to the end-user, as is appropriate by a non-profit research institute).
Most recently updated April, 2014.
Previously updated: April 2013, March 14, 2013, January 2, 2013, July 07, 2011. Updated July 24, 2011, January 3rd, September, November 5, 2012.
First posted December 26, 2012.
The genera Passiflora, known commonly as the passionflower. known by Native Americans since before the time of the Spanish conquest by other names. The first Spanish explorers did not know these plants and began to call "passion fruit" because its fruit reminded them of pomegranate (Punica granatum), a European species. Shortly after, the same Spanish (especially the Catholic missionaries), aided by creative and amazing imagination, suggested that the forms and structures of the flowers were a representation of the passion and suffering of Christ. This religious symbolism was spread over time, until in 1737 the famous Swedish scientist Carl Linnaeus decided to use as Passiflora genera name (Tillet 1988 Kugler & King 2004).
According to the religious interpretation of the flower, each party represents some aspect of the crucifixion of Christ:
Over time you were adding other aspects and interpretations of history.
These flowers are found in warmer areas, mostly tropics, throughout the world. Passionflower extracts have been classified into several categories of chemical activity: anxiolytic, spasmolytic, hypnotic, sedative, narcotic and anodyne (Ozarko 2001).
In a field expedition, when I was looking species of passionflower, a farmer told me that when people have insomnia uses flowers to sleep. Other people use the flowers in tea or soup to reduce stress and to sleep for many hours without being interrupted.
On this trip I had the opportunity to see P. quadrangularis and P. ligularis in wildlife because we are informally cooperating with Armando Caceres, author of medicinal plants of Guatemala and he provided where the plants are.
Importantly, many pasiflora species growing on non-native Guatemala. For example we have in our garden four species of Passiflora and none is native to Guatemala, belonging to South America.
MacDougal, J. M.
1983 Revision of Passiflora L. section Pseudodysosmia (Harms) Killip emend. J.
MacDougal, the hooked trichome group (Passifloraceae). Ph.D. dissertation, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina
2001. Passiflora. http://www.ion.com.au/~iridology/Passiflora.html