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

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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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Three different species of Heliconia plants in Municipio Livingston found so far

We found over 1 million Heliconia latispatha in one place of Municipio de Livingston

Since most books on Heliconia feature the species from Mexico, Costa Rica, the West Indies (islands) or South America we have dedicated numerous field trips over the recent six years looking for Heliconia native to Guatemala. We are also interested in Heliconia since their large leaves are used by the Q’eqchi’ Mayan people to roof their houses. And many Q’eqchi’ Mayan people use the leaves to wrap tamales (or wrap products to sell in the local Mayan markets).

We first saw the literally thousands of heliconia plants while driving from Livingston to Plan Grande Tatin, to visit the Cueva del Jaguar (March 9th, 2020). There was not time to stop the vehicle every time there was a Heliconia flower to photograph. So we returned on March 13th with lots of time available to stop the vehicle, get out, and do close-up photography of the Heliconia (most were starting several kilometers west of Livingston. 95% of the plants were Heliconia latispatha. 5% were Heliconia wagneriana. In other parts of the Municipio of Livingston we found Heliconia aurantiaca. We will have a web page on each of these species; the present page is to introduce Heliconia latispatha.

On March 9th we hiked by foot from Plan Grande Tatin through mud and crossed raging rivers to visit the Cueva del Jaguar. Since we were on foot it was easier to stop and photograph the Heliconia.

We have Heliconia latispatha happily growing for many years in the FLAAR Mayan Ethnobotanical Research Garden, 1500 meters elevation, Guatemala City.

What habitats does Heliconia latispatha thrive in?

Livingston is at sea level (it faces Amatique Bay, an inlet from the Caribbean Sea. Obviously the road from Livingston to Plan Grande Tatin is no longer at sea level; indeed the masses of tens-of-thousands of the Heliconia latispatha grow on the sides of hills. But I doubt elevation goes much beyond 100m.

When driving along the road from Livingston to Plan Grande Tatin, between all the individual maize plants there were lots of 10 cm high young Heliconia latispatha sprouts. So once the maize is harvested the Heliconia grows larger. This results in the literally masses of Heliconia latispatha growing all over hillsides. When the local people get ready to prepare a milpa (slash and burn agriculture) the thousands of Heliconia get chopped down with machetes and burned. But they sprout back up when that next maize crop is harvested. But there are also forest areas or swamp edges where no maize is grown; Heliconia can be found in these areas also (though clearly Heliconia prefers sunlight, it can adapt to some shade from nearby trees).

Cahabon is not as wet as the Municipio of Livingston and is twice the altitude. We have found Heliconia latispatha growing around Cahabon, Alta Verapaz.

What creatures are pollinators of Heliconia latispatha?

I have seen bees buzzing around these flowers in our garden. However keep in mind 1500 meters elevation is not the natural habitat of this heliconia so the pollinators in our garden may not be the same pollinators in Izabal (not much above sea level) and Alta Verapaz (Cahabon is only about 250 meters elevation and is significantly more humid than Guatemala City).

I saw one hummingbird dart onto an inflorescence of Heliconia latispatha, but it flew away so fast I am not sure I got a photograph.


Bibliography on Heliconia of Guatemala

Our generic bibliography of suggested reading on Heliconia of Guatemala is on our bibliography web site www.Maya-Art-Books.org.


First posted March 16, 2020.


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