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

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

Reports by FLAAR Mesoamerica
on Flora & Fauna of Parque Nacional Yaxha Nakum Naranjo
Peten, Guatemala, Central America

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Groundwork for re-creating 2000 year old eco-systems for movies and documentaries: Going to SIGGRAPH helps

Posted June 16. 2015

Our long range goals are to assist movie directors and location scouts to have authentic locations for Mesoamerican-related documentaries and movies, and to have remarkably accurate yet memorable eco-systems for any and all animated films on the Aztec, Maya, Olmec, Teotihuacan, Mixtec, Zapotec or other Mesoamerican culture or civilization.

Since Nicholas has worked on the archaeology of Peru for both a Harvard project and then also a Yale project, we could easily transition our abilities on the Maya and Aztec to the Inca.

To reach this level of ability, Nicholas Hellmuth has been doing field work and locational studies for decades. He was in Mexico already at age 16, in Guatemala by age 17, and was living in the seasonal rain forests of Guatemala by age 19.

For the last decade Senior Review Editor Hellmuth and his team of writers and researchers have been writing about digital photography equipment, software, and of course 3D imaging.

Assistant Editor Andrea Mendoza has been working on 3D imaging of the largest trees in Mesoamerica, the Ceiba pentandra, including testing drones for 3D scanning (we quickly learned that a GoPro camera is all PR release and zero actual ability to do this kind of scientific result).

Ceiba pentandra 3D DJI Phantom 2 review scanning Drone FLAAR Reports
3D scanning moving objects 2015 Flaar Reports
Ceiba pentandra 3D DJI Phantom 2 review scanning Drone FLAAR Reports
Digital Photography News, Digital Camera Equipment at Photokina 2012

conferences, 9-13 August 2015
Exhibition, 11-13-August 2015



Giant pod of guapinol, Hymenaea courbaril, found in Q'eqchi' house

Posted June 1. 2015

While visiting the parents of one of the student interns (who has a scholarship from FLAAR to study computer science and Q'eqchi' plant names), we found a substantial pod of guapinol, Hymenaea courbaril.

This pod was significantly larger than the pods we found under a guapinol, Hymenaea courbaril tree 40 minutes east of Lachua, Alta Verapaz.

Size difference is because it is warm climate near Lachua and colder, more mist, and higher altitude between Senahu and Cahabon (where the family of Senaida live).

Guapinol-Hymenaea-courbaril-FLAAR-Westcott-May-15-2015 9090 Giant pod of guapinol, Hymenaea courbaril, found in Q'eqchi' house.


Botanical research on Ceiba aesculifolia seedling growth sequence

Posted May 25, 2015

To help students and scholars, as well as people around the world who are interested in Maya culture, we continue studies of Ceiba aesculifolia. This is the relative of the arbol nacional, Ceiba pentandra. Ceiba aesculifolia, pochote, cebillo in local slang, grows mostly in extremely dry areas, and may have longer conical spines (though many trees have almost no spines whatsoever in one eco-system overlooking the Rio Motagua).

Ceiba aesculifolia seed growth sequence FLAAR Vivi
Here is a drawing by botany student Vivian Diaz, to show the seedling growth of Ceiba aesculifolia.


After four years search, finally found Magnolia in flower

Posted May 25, 2015

Magnolia trees are all over Orlando, Florida and the same species are in gardens in Antigua Guatemala. But this species is not native to Guatemala. We are seeking the several rare species which are native in Guatemala.

Magnolia grows mostly in extremely remote mountain areas and is being decimated since it makes great wood for flooring and other aspects of house construction. The native species are large handsome trees (so are a constant target for being chopped down).

Our interest is preserving both this species as well as documenting other uses that do not require the tree to be destroyed (the Maya used magnolia for thousands of years).

Our additional goal is to see how many other species of Magnolia we can find in the departamentos of Alta Verapaz, Huehuetnenango, and El Quiche.


Magnolia flower found blooming in late May, at high altitude, deep in a remote forest.


Maya ethnobotanical species in the high altitudes of Guatemala

Posted May 13, 2015

Normally we study plants of the Lowlands, but last week we drove through the Cuchumatanes (mountains) of El Quiche area. Not even any maize up here, yet considerable population of Mayan-speaking people.

Lots of potential for ethnobotanical research here.


3rd species of cacao, cocoa, for chocolate

Posted Jan 8, 2015

We have found a third species of cacao in Guatemala, Theobroma angustifolium. Took several weeks and several field trips to locate this. Theobroma angustifolium is known as cacao Silvestre, cacao de mico, cacao de mono, and other words (depending on which country in Mesoamerica you ask).

Almost every botanical monograph says that Theobroma angustifolium is from Costa Rica and that in Guatemala it grows only in plantations (meaning it does not grow in the wild and is not native).


We now estimate that 90% of any Theobroma angustifolium in Guatemala seen or heard about by Standley, Steyermark, Record, Williams, or botanists of the Field Museum of Natural History between 1920 and 1980 is now gone. Local people chop down the trees because they do not produce as much as modern varieties of Theobroma cacaoTheobroma angustifolium puts out thousands of beautiful flowers but few fruits.

When we asked all our cacao contacts in cacao growing regions of Guatemala, only one felt he could find some.. After several weeks (and driving about 2000 km back and forth, back and forth) we finally found one tree. The tree was very old, even older than most pataxte trees (Theobroma bicolor).

So now for 2015 we have added a page on Theobroma angustifolium.


FLAAR Reports on Maya plants, agriculture, diet, will be in PowerPoint format

Posted February 20, 2015

Most of the new research results reports on sacred flowers, edible plants of Tikal, flora of Yucatan, Campeche, Quintana Roo, Chiapas, Belize, Honduras, etc will be in PowerPoint format so that professors and instructors can use our material in their courses.

However this material is not intended to use used as filler for miscellaneous web sites who simply fill their pages from the work of others: the FLAAR material is for universities, museums, research organizations, and other appropriate institutes and associations. The photographs themselves are copyright 2015 FLAAR, and should be credited to Nicholas Hellmuth and Sofia Monzon.

Plants of the rain forests, swamps, and deserts are covered (yes, there are cactus covered dry areas in the "rain shadow" between Sierra de las Minas and the Motagua River of Guatemala). One of the remarkable sacred flowers of thousands of years of the Maya religion and iconography blooms here (we also raise them in our research garden).

We cover both Maya subsistence, diet (and occasionally recipes) for the Neo-tropical dominant plants of the ancient Maya.


Continued research on Mayan medicinal plants

Posted Feb. 2, 2015

While photographing in a field near Rio de los Esclavos, Departamento de Santa Rosa, a local person came up to introduce himself. Turned out he was a Mam speaker who had several years experience living and working in USA. But it also turned out that he knew medicinal plants of many areas of Guatemala. So we recently did a field trip in the fincas of the family who owns the building which we rent for our offices.

It is always a good idea to know the owner of the land where you are doing plant photography, and to get to know the local people from nearby villages.

We are now posting a bibliography on medicinal plants to document our continued research. Since we have found many plants which are not in other textbooks, we are seeking grants and funding to continue our long range program to find, photograph, and publish all the local, native Mayan medicinal plants of Guatemala.


Benefits of using drones for studying trees

Posted Jan. 19, 2015

Agronomists have surely been using drones for several years. But this technology is still relatively new in Mesoamerica. We recently hired an experienced drone pilot in Guatemala, Juan Carlos Fernandez, to study trees. As long as your drone is not commercial size, and as long as you use it in an area where you are not intruding on anyone's privacy, use is considered normal.

We have been studying ceiba trees for many decades. The Ceiba pentandra is the national tree of Guatemala today and was a sacred tree for the Maya and most cultures of Mesoamerica for thousands of years.

These trees are so high that there is no way to do photography from above unless you have enough $$ to charter a helicopter. Since that is too expensive for most scholars, we are testing normal-sized drones (about 40 cm in diameter).

We learned a lot in the two days of our first experiences. Juan Carlos Fernandez, the drone controller, photographed two ceibas and two palo blanco trees, Tabebuia donnell-smithii. We will be publishing our results in a FLAAR Report and potentially elsewhere in the coming months.



Goals for studies of Mayan agriculture for 2015

Posted the last days of December 2014 as preparation for 2015; updated May 2015

In 2015 we hope to find

  • native magnolia in bloom,
  • all other species of native magnolia
  • Quararibea funebris, Rosita de cacao
  • Hymenaea courbaril, Guapinol, when it blooms
  • Smilax species flowers (tough, as this vine flowers high in tall trees)
  • and Curatella Americana in bloom, chaparal.

So far in the first five months we reached several of these goals:
we found Curatella americana in its literally last days of blooming for 2015.

A team of our two botany students found one species of magnolia in bloom, Magnolia quetzal, on a remote mountain slope.

one of our plant scouts found Guapinol near Parque Lachua, but it had mature seed pods (insides are edible). So we need to learn when it will bloom in 2016.

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Botanical Terms

Ecosystems, Wetlands Aquatic Plants

Smartphone Camera Reviews

Fungi and Lichens

Consulting cacao & Theobroma species

Tobacco Ingredients of Aztec & Maya

Plants and trees used to produce incense

Camera Reviews for Photographing Flowers and Plants

Trees with conical Spines

Flowers native to Guatemala visible now around the world

Ethnobotany site page Donations acknowled Botton DONATE NOW


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.
Pachira aquatica, zapoton, zapote bobo, crucial sacred flower for Maya archaeologists and iconographers
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.
Pachira aquatica, zapoton, zapote bobo, crucial sacred flower for Maya archaeologists and iconographers
Flor de Mayo,Plumeria rubia, plumeria alba, plumeria obtusa. Edible flower used to flavor cacao
Guanaba, annona squamosa, Chincuya, Annona purpurea, Sugar apple, Chirimoya

Tikal Related Reports


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