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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Bibliography on Bletia purpurea, Pine pink, a water-related orchid at Lake Yaxha

I love to find aquatic orchids in the Mayan areas of Guatemala

In late October 2018, while returning in a boat from the far west end of Lake Yaxha, I noticed a pink-lavender flower that I had not seen before. It was buried though the tall reeds that grow one to three meters out from the shore. So I assumed it was just a miscellaneous flower (we had to get the boat back to the camp, so were in a hurry; thus I did not stop).

But then I saw more of these pink-lavender-purple flowers through the masses of reed grass, so I asked the boat captain to stop. Lo and behold, we had an orchid in front of us: growing on the base of the reeds, at water level. So I estimated this could be called an aquatic orchid, or at least a semi-aquatic orchid. Since the shore plants here are not a swamp it is not really a swamp orchid or bog-orchid in the locations we found it.

But no one wanted to accept that water-related orchids existed (orchid botanist Fredy Archila was the only person in all of Guatemala that said that water-related orchids do indeed exist).

So then I began to download articles, reports, and information. Senaida, and Elena with the help of a botanist, each independently identified the orchid as Bletia purpurea.

Where it grows depends on what is available: so in some parts of Guatemala perhaps it is on the shore, in other places it is on vegetation floating on the surface (the orchid itself is attached to the other plants; the orchid is not a water lily type of floater). In the misty mountains of Alta Verapaz Bletia purpurea does not grow on or even adjacent to water: these mountains are quite moist from mist and rain.

Since still no one wanted to believe that I had found an aquatic orchid in Peten, I returned to Yaxha in November with an orchid specialist who politely indicated that to him it was a terrestrial orchid. But I then went into the water so I could study the plant directly. So now we have spent enough time that I found one plant with its roots into the water and another plant which had its plant mass support tipped over and so the base of the orchid was a centimeter or so physically in the water (for over 20 days since park ranger Teco found the base in the water already over 20 days ago). And it is still in full flowering.

Plus we found other botanical articles who have found this orchid in other parts of the Mayan areas on plant mass which is floating (but evidently I am the first individual crazy enough to wade into the water; the water is 4 feet deep under the reed mass, so you definitely get wet) to study the situation of the orchid.

In other areas (north side of Lake Yaxha) the orchid was on plant masses with more than 5 meters depth of water below it, so it is not really always “riparian;’ along the north shore of Lake Yaxha Bletia purpurea grows out one to three meters away from the shore. So far we have never found it on the shore; it is always on rotting root mass and rotting reeds which are usually horizontal over the water when the reeds die and continue their presence on and under the surface of the water.

We will publish all our photos and notes as soon as possible.

I just presented our information at an orchid exhibit and conference in Coban, Alta Verapaz, Guatemala. Several orchid specialists from the USA said their orchid societies back home might also like to have a slide lecture on this orchid’s unexpected life stype. PLUS, we now have a list of several other water-related orchids known from nearby lakes in Peten. So as soon as they bloom we will hope to find them at Yaxha. The reeds are so thick that it’s a challenge to see an orchid until it is blooming.

In other parts of Guatemala not all Bletia purpurea grow on material on top of water; this and other “water-related” orchids are very adaptive. Many also grow in other eco-systems, so you will find many books and articles that describe Bletia purpurea as growing in other habitats. Indeed Senaida Ba found what looks like a mountain version of Bletia purpurea growing alongside the road from Senahu to Chipemech. Orchid books say it has been found in past decades around Cahabon. The mountains above Senahu is nowhere near water: no rivers, no lakes, not even a bog nearby. But all the mountain slopes around Senahu are moist much of the year due to mist and rain (much more than in Peten).

Check out our bibliography on Habenaria repens. That page highlights our discovery of this additional species of aquatic orchid, Habenaria repens. This orchid has been documented as floating on reed and lake-top plant material in wet areas in Mexico, around Guatemala.

We are preparing full-color PowerPoint presentations on AQUATIC ORCHIDS, Terrestrial Orchids, and Miniature Orchids of Guatemala, especially of Parque Nacional Yaxha Nakum Naranjo, to present at botanical gardens around the world and at meetings of orchid societies around the world.

If you can host and fly Dr Hellmuth to your city we can also assist your organization to prepare a field trip to Guatemala so you can experience all of this yourself, in-person, together with Dr Nicholas (that’s how he is known).

Contact: FrontDesk symbol FLAAR.org We estimate you know what symbol to use and to connect everything to send an e-mail.

We also have material to provide awesome color photo presentations on Edible Bromeliads of Guatemala, especially of Parque Nacional Yaxha Nakum Naranjo.

Plus for botanical gardens we have material on All the Vines, Tree Bark, Fruits, Roots & other Plant Material that provided Dye Colorants to the Mayan People for Thousands of Years.

Plus, What Plants did the Olmec, Maya & Aztecs Use to “Vulcanize” Rubber (Thousands of years before Thomas Goodyear assumed he was the first…). We have found native Mayan rubber trees and both the plants whose chemicals can turn latex into bounceable rubber (for the Mayan rubber ball game, for example).

Airfare, taxi to airport in Guatemala City and your home city, hotel and basic meals, plus a donation to our orchid and bromeliad projects are appreciated: FLAAR is tax exempt in USA.

PDF, Articles, Books on Bletia purpurea, Pine pink

  • BEUTELSPACHER Baigts, Carlos Rommel
  • 2008
  • Catalogo de las orquideas de Chiapas. Lacandonia, ano 2, vol 2, num. 2, diciembre de 2008, pp. 25-122.

    Bletia purpurea (Lam.) DC DISTRIBUCIÓN GENERAL.- México (Campeche, Chiapas, Jalisco, México, Michoacán,
    Morelos, Nuevo León, Oaxaca, Puebla, Q. Roo, San Luís Potosí, Tabasco, Tamaulipas, Veracruz, Yucatán), Guatemala,
    Belice, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panamá, Indias Occidentales, Florida y Norte de Sudamérica.
    CHIAPAS.-11 km de Xanil, Chilón; crucero Corozal; Santa Cruz, San Felipe, San Cristóbal de Las Casas. Soto Salazar
    y Hágsater (1995); Espejo y López-F., 1: 10 (1997); Soto (2001).

    Information is always helpful (his page 33), but no mention of being near (or not near) creeks, rivers, lakes, or swamps.

    Free download on Internet:
    https://cuid.unicach.mx/revistas/index.php/lacandonia/article/download/126/128/
  • JOHNSON, T. R. and M. E. KANE
  • 2013
  • Differential germination and developmental responses of Bletia purpurea (Orchidaceae) to mannitol and sorbitol in the presence of sucrose and fructose.
    Journal of Plant nutrition. Vol. 36, No. 5. Pages 702-716.
  • MÓ, Edgar and Edgar RUIZ
  • 2012
  • Estudio dela orquideoflora de la reserva privada Chicacnab, Alta Verapaz, Guatemala. Lankesteriana. Vol. 12, No. 3. Pages 175-190.

    Available Online:
    www.redalyc.org/html/443/44339825007/
  • NOGUERA, Eliana and William CETZAL
  • 2014
  • Revisión e integración del conocimiento de las Orchidaceae de Tabasco, México. Botanical Sciences. Vol. 92, No. 4. Pages 519-540.

    Available Online:
    www.scielo.org.mx/pdf/bs/v92n4/v92n4a6.pdf
  • PEREZ Sanchez, Jose Manuel
  • 2007
  • Desarrollo local en el Tropico Mexicano. Los Camellones Chontales de Tucta, Tabasco, Master’s Thesis, Social Anthropology, Universidad
    Iberoamericana, Mexico, D.F.

    Mentions Bletia purpurea and Habenaria repens as aquatic (page 31).

    Free download on Internet

 

Suggested webpages with photos and information on Bletia purpurea, Pine pink

www.orchidspecies.com/bletpurpurea.htm
Photo and information.

www.orchidspecies.com/bletreflexa.htm
Photo and information of Bletia reflexa.

https://goorchids.northamericanorchidcenter.org/species/bletia/purpurea/
Photos and information.

www.backyardnature.net/yucatan/bletia.htm
Photos and information.

http://ecobiosis.museocostarica.go.cr/especies/ficha/1/4015
Information.

www.gbif.org/species/2794604
Photos and map location.

 

First posted, November 2018
Bibliography prepared by Marcella Sarti, FLAAR Mesoamerica (Guatemala).
Text and additions to the bibliography by Nicholas Hellmuth, FLAAR (USA).

 

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