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, Guatemala, FLAAR Mayan ethnobotanical garden, Jun 1, 2017, by Nicholas Hellmuth

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


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To us expatriate North Americans: the most unknown “pepper” of Guatemala: Piper species.

In Guatemala and the remaining parts of Mesoamerica there are several species of the genus Piper. I would hope that any local botanist could produce the complete list relatively quickly. But since most of us from North America don’t know Piper species well, I will start with some of the species mentioned most frequently. Of these the first, Piper auritum, is by far the most commonly used.


Hierba santa maria, Piper auritum, Taken at Alta verapaz on June 2012, with a Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III

Piper auritum, Hoja santa, cordoncillo
Piper aduncum synonym Piper angustifolia, Cordoncillo, matico
Piper jacquemontianum
Piper jalapense
Piper psilorhachis (Maya name Chucsuc)
Piper umbellatum
Piper variabile

The plant family is Piperaceae  







Piper auritum


Hoja santa



sacred pepper

Piper aduncum

Artanthe adunca Miq., 
Piper angustifolium Ruz & Rav
Piper celtidifolium Kunh 
Piper elongatum Vahl.





Piper jacquemontianum

Piper citrifolium Lam.
Piper wydlerianum (Miq.) C. DC.





Piper jalapense






Piper psilorhachis






Piper umbellatum

Heckeria subpeltata (Willd.) Kunth





Piper variabile













Although I have been drinking tea from pimenta gorda since I was young (I have been learning about plants and animals in Guatemala for over 50 years, since I was 17 years old), I did not know about Piper auritum, Hoja santa, cordoncillo until Universidad del Valle biology student Daniela da’Costa explained it to me. Actually it turns out we have one growing in our interior patio in the FLAAR office garden (as was identified by Priscila Sandoval, biologist graduating from USAC).


Piper auritum as a source of sassafras flavoring for root beer

Piper auritum was once a source of sassafras flavoring for root beer. But people tend to prefer not to drink a product which is potentially carcinogenic, since the leaves of P. auritum have high contents in safrol, the active compound that is carcinogenic. Ironic to this most of the Piper species are commonly used as native medicines throughout Mesoamerica.  Plus, whether Piper is carcinogenic to humans is evidently debated.

My gardener loves to gobble down fresh shoots of the Piper which grows in our garden (the species with giant leaves; he eats the shoots, raw, or cooked).


Hierba santa maria, Piper auritum, Taken at Alta verapaz on June 2012, with a Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III

First posted early July 2014

Demo xtra 2

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Spices, condiments, food coloring

Underutilized edible plants

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)

Flavoring, herbs, and spices

Flowers, sacred

Plants which are sacred

Plants or trees that are used to produce incense

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 Gonolobus, an edible vine from Asclepiadaceae Family.
Pachira aquatica, zapoton, zapote bobo, crucial sacred flower for Maya archaeologists and iconographers


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