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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New heliconia, now identified

Updated Sept 11, 2017; Posted June 18, 2017


Specimen photographed in Ranchitos del Quetzal, Peten. Photo by Nicholas Hellmuth, Nikon D810 on a Gitzo tripod.

We continue working on improving the lists of Heliconias of Guatemala published by eminent botanists. Not one of these lists is consistent with other lists in other botanical monographs (because the authors were not in each eco-system of Guatemala: we have found two species of wild Heliconia even in the bosque seco parallel to the Rio de los Esclavos).

The Heliconia pictured here is in the impressive garden of Ranchitos del Quetzal, near the Quetzal preserve in Alta Verapaz (directly alongside the main highway towards Coban, CA-14, km 160.5). We photographed this in June and hope to identify its species or variety soon. We also strive to learn whether it is native in nearby areas of Alta Verapaz.

In August Elena Siekavizza was able to identify this as Heliconia adflexa. Then two weeks later Senada Ba spotted the same species up on a hill as we were driving through a remote part of Baja Verapaz. We found out who owned the property and went to ask permission to take photographs; permission was graciously provided.

Heliconia leaves (of other Guatemalan species) are used to wrap tamales. Heliconia leaves of other species are used to thatch Q’eqchi’ Mayan houses in remote areas: we have found two houses thatched with platanillo so far.

It is a challenge to identify atypical heliconia plants since the nice monograph Heliconia an Identification Guide (by Fred Berry and W. John Kress, 1991), is almost three decades out of date. And, as typical of all monographs on Heliconia, is not focused on wild heliconia of Guatemala. Most of the popular books on Heliconia are on garden varieties. Our interest is to encourage growing wild species so their wild DNA can continue.




We are preparing educational material to help Mayan families learn ABCs

Posted Sept. 4, 2017

Our Mayan assistants know plants which are not in textbooks on Mayan agriculture. Our Q’eqchi’ Mayan assistants are writing articles which have information missing from peer-reviewed journals by university professors in USA and Europe.

In remote mountain villages, the kids there are capable of all this, but often the school is a 4-hour hike back-and-forth (not only no school bus, not 4WD pickup available either).

ABC with seeds by Erick Jul 13-14 17 2017 EF 3726 ABC with seeds by Erick Jul 13-14 17 2017 EF 3712

Here is A written with avocados.

Here is Z written with zapotes.

Our goal is to have ABC books and also animated videos (so people can watch them on their mobile phones).

We will use local plants to form each letter of all the ABCs.

We have initiated a series of programs to help education of children in remote areas.

ABC with seeds spelled Jul 17-19 2017 NH-3870

In addition to A, B, C…W, X, Y, Z we will also of course spell out entire words.

Once funding is available, we will also indicate which vitamins, minerals, and other healthy proteins are in each natural food.

This way we can help parents (and grandparents) learn about vitamins, minerals, and food values, in addition to learning how to read.

We can also do these educational concepts in the local Mayan languages, such as Q’eqchi’, Pokomchi, Kaqchiquel and of course we would want to do all the languages of Guatemala.

We welcome contacts with companies, foundations, and individuals who would like to help us: FrontDesk “at” FLAAR dot ORG




Lots of beautiful flowers, including orchids, along the roadsides of Guatemala

Posted Sept. 1, 2017


Driving the back road between Senahu to Tucuru you find lots of orchids. All of Alta Verapaz is moist and most is hills and mountains and rivers. So lots of eco-systems for orchids.

Although we tend to associate orchids with trees, actually there are terrestrial orchids also in Guatemala (precisely along the sides of roads in Alta Verapaz and many areas of the Highlands to the west.


Driving a road (instead of a highway) from Purulha towards Salama (Baja Verapaz) you find lots of orchids in the humid areas (Salama itself is dry, so lots of cacti).

We found orchids in trees, and we thank Alejandro Sagone for knowing their botanical names.

But there were also orchids growing in the ground (there are also terrestrial bromeliads in Guatemala two of which are edible).

Anywhere and everywhere along most highways in Guatemala you can find a rainbow of colors of wild flowers. In Alta Verapaz and Baja Verapaz (if in the cloud forest areas) many of these roadside flowers are ORCHIDS. Yes, WILD orchids by the thousands for kilometer after kilometer.

Many of these roads require 4WD vehicles (and not SUV; they are not high enough to survive the rocks which will shred their axels and anything else low on the chassis).





Why? When? Digiscoping for botanists and flower photographers?

Posted Jul. 28, 2017

Lots of birders use digiscopes to photograph birds that even an 800mm camera lens can barely capture. We have experience with 200mm, 300mm, and 400mm lenses, and will be testing a 600mm prime lens in August.

This conference is made to present the importance of nutrition among Guatemalan children, especially in rural areas, and the health benefits that this can have in the Mayan society.

95 Digiscoping-vs-telephoto-lenses-which-is-better-bird-photography-flowers-Nicholas-Hellmuth-FLAAR-1

96 Digiscoping Desmoncus sp Nicholas Hellmuth

But for photographing plants, not many people suggest a digiscope. But while doing a research project on listing all the heliconia species native to Guatemala, we quickly found out that even a 400mm telephoto lens was not enough.


So we are considering testing and evaluating a SWAROVSKI OPTIK digiscoping system.





Three national flowers all blooming the same week in FLAAR ethnobotanical Garden

Posted April 7, 2017

National flower of El Salvador

isote national flower El Salvador Guatemala


National flower of Belize

black-orchid Encyclia cochleatum orchid national flower Belize 9526

black orchid Encyclia cochleatum

National flower of Nicaragua


Plumeria rubra

All blooming same day in the ethnobotanical research garden surrounding the office of FLAAR.

We also have the national flower of Mexico in our ethnobotanical garden, Dahlia, but it bloomed in past month.

National flowers of Honduras, Costa Rica and Guatemala are three different species of orchid. That of Guatemala (Monja Blanca) is endangered so it is not appropriate to take it off a tree to bring to your garden.


Dahlia Imperialis



Different varieties of Mayan Cacao, for cocoa and chocolate

Posted March 16, 2017

Our team of FLAAR is assisted by several Q’eqchi’ Mayan-speaking people in Alta Verapaz and Peten. These “plant scouts” go out in their areas to help us find plants which are on our “would really like to find and photograph list.”

About 7 months ago we found cacao pods for sale by a Q’eqchi’ grandmother in Senahu, Alta Verapaz. These cacao pods had a curved end to them. Unfortunately we do not have her contact info nor do we know where she harvested these atypical pods. So we have asked our plant scouts to see if they can find trees with “curved, pointed” cacao pods.

While six of us from FLAAR Reports were doing research on advanced digital imaging in Shanghai, one of our plant scouts said he found a tree filled with curved cacao pods. This is a large tall tree, but not a Theobroma bicolor (so not pataxte, balamte). This is clearly Theobroma cacao, and we hope specialists in cacao DNA can figure out why these pods have a curved end.


Mayan cacao chocolate curved point pod. Peten, Guatemala

We have also found Theobroma angustifolium in the Costa Sur, but most people suggest this came from Costa Rica by the Spaniards, very quickly after the conquest of Guatemala and Mexico. The curved-ended cacao is absolutely not Theobroma angustifolium.





FLAAR Mesoamerica has the honor to invite you to…

Posted Feb. 13, 2017

Plantas Comestibles Nutritivas para Mejorar Significativamente la Dieta y Salud de los Niños en las Zonas Rurales de Guatemala

This conference is made to present the importance of nutrition among Guatemalan children, especially in rural areas, and the health benefits that this can have in the Mayan society.


You can download the formal invitation in the link above.





Improving Mayan Diet with Healthy Local Plants

Posted Jan. 2, 2017

Amaranthus hypochondriacus Candelaria Campo Santo 9338Amaranth-young-leaves-BLEDO-Milpa-Los-Pajoques-San-Juan Sacatepequez-Dec-29-2016-NH-4689

Amaranth, Amaranthus hypochondriacus, with an insect which may possibly be Brachygastra mellifica, one of the few wasps of Mesoamerica which makes honey. Photographed in Rabinal during Day of the Dead ceremonies, Nov. 1 and Nov. 2, 2016.

The diverse eco-systems throughout the Mayan areas of Guatemala and adjacent countries offer much more than just maize, beans, and squash of the traditional milpas. For thousands of years people also ate seeds, leaves, flowers, roots, and even edible vines of plants growing around their homes or in nearby forests.

We at FLAAR Mesoamerica have worked for years to learn what nice edible plants can improve the health of people both in villages and in remote areas. Several Guatemalan botanists and agronomists also have excellent articles and books on these subjects; Dr Cesar Azurdia is one example. When you visit remote areas, you quickly see healthy edible plants which are totally missing from most peer-reviewed journal articles in USA and Europe. And our list of plants to support Mayan families already exceeds all lists produced by the experienced botanist Cyrus Lundell and other Carnegie Institution of Washington scholars of the 1930’s through 1950’s.

Plus we have more documentation on edible aspects, more than in the helpful Standley and Steyermark monographs on flora of Guatemala, Mexico, Honduras, and Belize.

Our goal for 2017 is to seek funding so that we can publish our results, especially in local Mayan languages so that both parents, children, and grandparents, can learn about all the potential healthy edible plants available in Guatemala. Improving health is a crucial goal.

With most of the mature forests being bulldozed for commercial purposes, it is useful to have a list of plants available 2000 years ago. And especially, our goal is to do close-up photography of the flowers to help botanists identify the species.

Nance, which ironically looks almost like jocote fruits. Nance is an edible fruit native to many parts of Mesoamerica and sold in Mayan village markets of Guatemala and other countries. Nance grows on a small to medium sized tree, Byrsonima crassifolia. Nance is mentioned in the Popol Vuh as food of the mythical macaw-like deity.

In addition to publishing scholarly lists, it is also crucial to publish for children, in a style that children’s patience will encourage them to read. Two of us flew to the largest book fair in Latin America (800,000 people attended this book fair in Guadalajara, Mexico). So our team of 15 graphic designers, illustrators and biology students now have lots of ideas how to present the information on healthy local Mayan plant alternatives to entire families. Yes, we also will have PDFs for students and professors and researchers, but it is equally important to give this information to local people, including in schools, in their own Mayan language, and Spanish.

As soon as funds are available, you can look forward to innovative publication on the frankly remarkable diversity of healthy edible plants native to Guatemala for thousands of years.




Happy Holidays, December and January New Year

Posted Dec 20, 2016

ethnobotany banner christmas card 20152

FLAAR Reports has two divisions; you are now on one of the web sites of the tropical Mesoamerica flora and fauna team. If you are interested in wide-format inkjet printers, we have an entire network to explain this technology: www.wide-format-printers.org

There is also a growing team of illustrators and graphic designers who do educational children’s books (to show the world the remarkable plants and animals of 2000 years of Mayan civilization in Guatemala, Mexico, Belize, Honduras, and El Salvador).

This holiday card shows four different natural actual colorations of jaguars: normal color, rare but occasional white color, “gray” black, and “total black” (often mistakenly assumed to be a black panther).

The gray and black variants are melanistic jaguars, with one or more genes different than the DNA of the traditional jaguar color. Even in the “solid black” jaguar, the spots still exist and can be seen when the feline is swimming and the sun is at the right angle. Yes, felines love water and love to swim (and chase and eat crocodiles and alligators).

To learn more about animals of the Mayan world, take a look at our www.maya-ethnozoology.org.

To see our newly launched cartoon book web site, look at our
Here you can see a video of Dr Nicholas interacting with a 350 pound tapir and her spotted baby.






Happy Thanksgiving from FLAAR 2016

Posted Nov 23, 2016

Happy thanksgiving 2016 message from Dr Nicholas FLAAR Reports MQ

Drawing is by two of our team: university graphic design student Mellany and student intern Maria Josefina, copyright 2016 FLAAR.

The ancient Maya of southern Mexico, Belize, and Guatemala had a turkey species totally different than the North American turkey: the turkey of Guatemala is the ocellated turkey (Meleagris ocellata).

We show here two felines getting ready to have their yummy turkey feast (there are five species of felines in Guatemala: jaguar, puma, jaguarundi, ocelot, and margay).

We hope you enjoy our thanksgiving day bird feast humor. Don’t worry, we do not eat wild ocellated turkeys; they are protected species.


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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

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