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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Plants of the Mayan world include remarkable waterlily flowers, Nymphoides indica

Nymphoides indica is rare in Guatemala but common in Izabal area

In the many decades that I have been studying waterlily plants in Guatemala, the primary species I have focused on is Nymphaea alba. That’s because this is the waterlily that appears on stelae of Copan, stelae of Guatemala, murals of Bonampak, ceramic Maya plates, bowls, and vases, especially of the Late Classic (Tepeu 1 and Tepeu 2). So in all these years of field work in rivers, creeks, lakes, lagoons, and swamps in Peten, Izabal, and near Monterrico, I have not focused on the other waterlily, Nymphoides indica.

But during our second monthly field trip to Izabal, working in cooperation with the Municipio de Livingston team, the helpful boat captain and local guides brought us to areas where we found thousands of Nymphoides indica in full flowering phase during the middle of March, 2020.


Click to enlarge image

Large area with both Nymphoides indica by themselves: no Nymphaea alba among the Water Snowflake flowers.

Photo by David Arrivillaga using a Nikon D5 camera and a lens 35mm f/1.4 at El Golfete, Municipo de Izabal, Guatemala. Settings: 1/500 sec, f/11, ISO 640.

Nymphoides indica also growing in exactly same habitat as Nymphaea ampla


Click to enlarge image

Large area with both Nymphoides indica and also Nymphaea ampla, growing happily together.

Photo by Nicholas Hellmuth using a Nikon D810 camera, lens 200mm f/4, in El Golfete. Settings: 1/1000 sec, f/11, ISO 640.

In other parts of the wetlands of Rio Dulce, especially on the north side and south side of El Golfete our helpful local guides showed us areas where the Nymphoides indica grow side by side together with the larger Nymphaea alba waterlilies.


Click to enlarge image

Photo by David Arrivillaga using a Nikon D5 and a Nikon 28-300mm lens. Settings: 150mm, 1/1000 sec, f/10, ISO 640.

Other areas of solid Nymphaea alba, with not one single Nymphoides indica

We hope a botanist or ecologist can come to these areas and study the local soil and other aspects (water depth perhaps) to learn why some areas are solid Nymphaea ampla; other areas are solid Nymphoides indica and other areas have the two flowering water plants next to each other.


Click to enlarge image

Photo by David Arrivillaga using a Nikon D5 and a Nikon 35mm lens. Settings: 150mm, 1/1000 sec, f/10, ISO 640.

We look forward to studying the entire circumference of El Golfete (in March we studied both north and south of the east end (towards the Rio Dulce Canyon to Livingston). In late April we would like to search the entire west end of El Golfete, the entire Rio Dulce from there to the west side of the highway bridge, to Lake Izabal, to see which areas have Nymphoides indica, which areas have Nymphaea alba and which habitats have both together.

We will also be looking for all other water plants that are visible on the surface, such as Wolffia brasiliensis, Lemna minor, etc. The plants of the Mayan word are very remarkable.

Bibliography, books, articles, web sites: List of Suggested Reading on Nymphoides indica

Very few web sites have meaningful information on Nymphoides indica.

Most REA and Plan Maestro reports simply list Nymphoides indica (if anyone has been going deep enough into the swamps to find it). But even if listed, practically no viable information is available on its habitat. Fortunately capable Mexican botanists have produced two helpful reports.

  • MARTÍNEZ, Mahinda and Maricela GÓMEZ SÁNCHEZ
  • 2006
  • Descripción anatómica vegetativa de dos especies de Nymphoides (Menyanthaceae). Revista Mexicana de Biodiversidad 77: 81-87, 2006.

    Clear crisp botanical illustration of the entire plant, with names for the roots hanging down from near the surface (the roots that do not yet reach the bottom of the swamp or riverside).

    Lots of detailed anatomical information and photographs not available in any other publication.

    Free Download:

We look forward to comparable reports on Nymphoides indica by the capable Guatemalan botanists of USAC, UVG, CECON, CONAP, FUNDAECO. To initiate future articles, we are providing this web page and we also have a full FLAAR Mesoamerica report in preparation, a veritable photo album on flowers and lily pads of Nymphoides indica.


First posted March 31, 2020.


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