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.

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Guarumo, Cecropia obtusifolia and Cecropia peltata, common tree throughout Mayan Guatemala, Belize, and southern Mexico, used to make blowguns for Hunahpu and Xbalanque of Popol Vuh.

Guarumo, smoked (instead of tobacco) in Alta Verapaz

Granada, Punica granatum tree, notice all the stages of the flower and fruit. FLAAR archive, Guatemala.
 

Standley and Steyermark (1946:22) state that Cecropia obtusifolia is smoked in Alta Verapaz. In case you have any doubt about whether the Maya smoke, note that the name of this tree in Belize is the tobacco tree! But everyone else says it is called the trumpet tree in Belize.

The wool separated from the stems and leaves is said to be sometimes smoked by the Indians of Alta Verapaz, like tobacco. Velasquez, in notes accompanying the original specimens of Cecropia obtusifolia, remarks that it is on this tree that the bird called "ciacia" (chacha or chachalaca) builds its nests.

The local name, "guarumo," gives its name to a caserio of San Marcos, called El Guarumo. In British Honduras the tree is called "trumpet." The name "guarumo" is probably of West Indian origin. Oviedo cites it as "yaruma," which probably is closest to the original form of the word.

Ant symbiosis with guarumo tree, Cecropia obtusifolia

Granada, Punica granatum tree, notice all the stages of the flower and fruit. FLAAR archive, Guatemala.
 

A symbiotic relationship is when two species evolve together and end up depending on, and helping, each other. In Guatemala there are two plants that have a symbiotic relationship with an ant host: guarumo tree is one of these two plants. The other plant is a bush, that is common in Peten and nearby areas. In the bush the ants live inside hollow thorns.

Ants of the genus Azteca inhabit the inside of the Cecropia (Longino 2006) as seen in the informative Ants of Costa Rica, www.evergreen.edu/ants/AntsofCostaRica.html

Cecropia-Azteca interaction (mutualism reward defense) the plant provides the ant colony food called Mullerian bodies, the which consist mainly of glycogen and also provides shelter for the establishment and nesting colony in the hollow trunks of the tree. Furthermore, the ants provide protection and defense against herbivores, in addition to providing the service removal of epiphytes and lianas, which compete for light and represent an extra weight for Cecropia. There is a period of the life cycle of the plant, the stage of seedling to sapling, which is not observed in the presence of ants. This is because at this stage, the seedlings do not show even the attributes that make suitable for colonization (appearance of several Trichilia assets and a hollow log). These attributes are met around 7 to 12 months of age.

Plants in this species harbor large populations of ferociously stinging ants; Cecropia peltata provides its guests with both food and lodging. It is known to flower during the rainy season, May to August.

Since guarumo is in some respects a giant weed, and as once the forest of tall trees return to the milpa, the guarumo will be shaded out. It is known to flower during the rainy season, May to August.

Ethnographic situation

The word in Yucatec Maya dictionaries is kooché.

The tree trunk can be used as a water pipe, since it is pretty much hollow.

Influorescence is edible

The leaves are eaten by cattle, and in Salvador the leaves are salted, after which cows are said to eat, them in quantity.

The infructescence is edible, with a flavor similar to that of fig. The fruits have a relatively high nutritional value, have a higher proportion of protein than other Moraceae and Lauraceae.

Inflorescence is edible

The leaves are eaten by cattle, and in Salvador the leaves are salted, after which cows are said to eat, them in quantity.

Guarumo has the tree out of which you can make a blow-gun

Granada, Punica granatum tree, notice all the stages of the flower and fruit. FLAAR archive, Guatemala.
 

Blowguns are often seen pictured in polychrome paintings on Late Classic Maya vases, bowls, and plates, used by hunters. The Hero Twins also use blowguns, as we know from the Blom Plate (Hellmuth 1987:back cover) and from the Popol Vuh story.

Reportedly blowguns are most easily made from the guarumo, for several reasons: it is relatively straight; most of the tree is hollow anyway; and the wood is not very heavy. Plus the guarumo tree grows fast and is common in abandoned milpas.

Guarumo and the quetzal

The quetzal bird enjoys eating wild avocado (it is smaller than domesticated avocado). And the quetzal likes to eat guarumo.

Where to find guarumo?

Granada, Punica granatum tree, notice all the stages of the flower and fruit. FLAAR archive, Guatemala.
 

You can see this throughout Peten, especially in cleared areas which are beginning to regrow. Often around houses some of the guarumo trees are allowed to continue to grow. They get relatively large and aged-looking. The young upstarts are more common and typify this tree.

I do not have any guarumo in my garden, since I don’t have much space and the tree is so easy to find in Peten.

Recently we found lots of guarumo in a garden between a gas station and Centro Cultural la Galeria, in Salama.

Contact information

We thank Raul Fernandez, VicePresident, of the Asociacion that manages the Centro Cultural la Galeria, for letting us use his roof terrace so we could be at the same level as the guarumo flowers to photograph them more easily.

Address: 3rd Calle 9-83, Zona 1, Salama, Baja Verapaz, Guatemala

Telephones (502) 5407-7901, (502) 7940-1780

e-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Bibliography

OCAMPO, Rafael and Michael J. BALICK 2009 Plants of Semillas Sagradas: an ethnomedicinal garden in Costa Rica. Finca Lunda Nueva Lodge.

www.conabio.gob.mx/conocimiento/info_especies/arboles/doctos/49-morac3m.pdf , This has zero illustrations but tells you everything botanical that you need to know about this tree. Very thorough.

First posted October 2011

 
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