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

This space is for flowers
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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Angel’s Trumpet flowers, Brugmansia species, in full flowering mode this week

Posted July 3, 2022, by Nicholas Hellmuth

During the recent ten years I have never seen so many Angel’s Trumpet flowers in our garden on a single day. Each of the clusters of these small trees is shimmering in pendant flowers of Brugmansia species. You can find these in thousands of gardens all over Guatemala: white, yellow, or pink flowers. Although I prefer to have wild flowers that are native, so far we have not found any native Datura to transplant to our garden. Datura flowers often stand up; Brugmansia flowers always hang straight down.

We have yellow flowers and white flowers; I show the yellow ones here. We thank Dr Miguel Torres for sharing cuttings of Brugmansia from his garden outside Antigua Guatemala.

The last three weeks it has rained almost every day; then came the annual canicula (a one week period of pure sun with no rain or heavy cloud cover). So this is probably what encouraged so many to flower.

Local bees absolutely love these flowers, but humans should not sniff, snort, swallow or otherwise use these flowers to eat or even to taste.




Bejuco de ajo (Bignonia binata) an interesting vine of Petén

Posted July 1, 2022

While driving the 40km route to one of the furthest savanna ecosystems in the forestry concession “La Gloria” (Reserva de Biosfera Maya, Petén), we found what we think to be Bignonia binata (also known as bejuco de ajo) flowers. The flowers were emerging from the trunk of the plant, near the ground.

On May 6, at 13:56 pm our team was driving through some of the most well conserved forests in Petén when Sergio, who is part of the team, saw a few purple flowers emerging near the ground. At that moment, he thought that they were terrestrial orchids. Nevertheless, we still had a long route to travel (in order to find more savanna ecosystems that day), and we didn’t stop, so he left a mark in the GPS.

bignonia binata

Sony A1, 90mm lens. May 6, 2022. Photographer: Edwin Solares.

The next day, Teco (our local guide) decided to stop and check the same flowers. He said that he had seen the flowers the previous day, and he wanted to have a better look to check what they could be. That’s when we all noticed that they seem to be “bejuco de ajo” flowers, but they were emerging directly from the trunk, a few centimeters above the ground.

Although we are not still sure about the species, given that there were not any leaves growing at least 10 meters above the ground, we suspect that this plant might be Bignonia binata. This vine is pretty common in Petén and it is difficult not to spot it because it gets huge amounts of bright pink flowers. We have actually found it flowering massively along the roads of Paso Caballos.

What we hadn’t seen before is axilar flowers that emerged from the trunk, a few centimeters above the ground. In this regard, the plant we found was a massive liana that scrambled through the vegetation to reach the tall, perhaps 25m high, canopy. As well, it didn’t have any leaves or flowers that we could spot or photograph with any of the long range lenses that we had at the moment. For that same reason, the two inflorescences that we did get to photograph near the ground not only intrigued us, but also let us identify the species. It would be interesting to do more research on which pollinators inhabit this lower portion of the forest (and for that reason, could pollinate these flowers), and on how this individual plant developed flowers near the ground as a mechanism to attract such pollinators.

bignonia binata

Sony A1, 90mm lens. May 6, 2022; 11:35am. Photographer: Edwin Solares.

Botanical description: Bignonia binata belongs to the BIGNONIACEAE family. It is a vining herb with secondary growth or commonly called "woody". Its opposite compound leaves, with simple tendrils. Its inflorescence is a termile fascicle with 3 white to purple flowers.

It flowers mainly in April, May, June and July and bears fruit in May, July and August. It generally grows on the shores of rivers, lakes and wetlands, entangling itself in trees if it is around it and is distributed from Mexico to Argentina. (Ochoa, Moreno, Jiménez, Ramon, Muñiz & Haas. 2017)
















Bignonia binata


  • 2017
  • Guía de plantas acuáticas ribereñas de la cuenca del Usumacinta. 322 pages.
Written by Victor Mendoza & Sergio Jerez




Aristolochia grandiflora happily flowering in FLAAR research garden

Posted June 23, 2022, by Dr Nicholas Hellmuth

Aristolochia grandiflora is potentially the largest flower of Guatemala. It grows from a relatively thin vine in the Peten and also high in the mountains of Alta Verapaz. Friends provided us the seeds but we had to plant dozens year after year until it decided to grow at 1,500 meters above sea level around the home/office of FLAAR Mesoamerica.

Today there were two of these giant flowers. I show one here; it’s not full size yet, but close.


This side is pink-green; this is the side in the shade, with no sun shining on it.

If you look on the Internet you see photographs of primarily the open part; but in our garden that does not open. And the flower begins to wilt, rot, and falls off it you touch it (to try to turn it so you can photograph it at a good angle; we will show the older flower in an eventual FLAAR Report on this flower. The one here is young; still has a few days to grow before beginning to wilt.

So far one flower has produced a seed pod, about the size and shape of a small cacao pod.


This side is pink-red color; this is the side facing the sun.




The Curious Plant that Looks like a Fungus

Posted June 23, 2022

In May we continue our exploration in the Reserva de Biósfera Maya (RBM). We had the opportunity to visit the "Multiple Use Zone" where the forestry concessions are located, we focus mainly on “La Gloria” concession. Among the most interesting plant species that we found was the genus Helosis, since at first glance it looks like a fungus. But then we realize it was actually a plant because we have documented it previously in Sayaxche, Petén.

Why does it look like a fungus?

Balanophoraceae is a family of 17 genera of holoparasitic geophytes, that means, a plant that takes all its nutrients from the host plant because it does not have chlorophyll in its tissues. It has roots characterized by an aberrant vegetative and underground body, without leaves, stems or roots, called tuber, which may have rhizome-like branches. These parasitic plants attach to the root of host shrubs and trees of dark tropical forest species. The inflorescences are the only aerial part of the plant and several of them can appear along the rhizomes, making it difficult or impossible to define an individual. A peculiarity of the inflorescences is their endogenous origin (in relation to their own tissues), a unique characteristic in angiosperms. Its flowers are minute and a wide range of extreme reductions can be observed between genera, especially in female flowers and similarly in its seeds, with embryos consisting of few cells (Hansen, 1980; Kuijt, 1969; Mauseth, Hsiao & Montenegro, 1992, Heide, 2008; Su, Hu, Anderson, Der & Nickrent, 2015).

Helosis is one of the genera of the Balanophoraceae family It includes three species, the recently discovered H. antillensis, H. ruficeps and H. cayennensis, that has two varieties: var. cayennensis and var. Mexicana (Gonzalez, Sato & Marazzi, 2019)

helosis cayennensis

Helosis cayennensis being pollinated by Trigona fulviventris. La Gloria forest concession, Reserva de Biósfera Maya (RBM) May, 2022. Photograph by Edwin Solares

Botanical Information:

It has light brown tubers, irregular, with a rough surface, about 20 to 35 mm long by 20-30 mm wide and no more than 20 mm high, located about 5 cm deep. The rhizomes are 4-5 mm in diameter, light brown, branched, aphyllous, arranged parallel to the surface, about 5-7 cm deep. they form a network that begins in the tubers and on them the flower stems are formed. The stems of the underground system are cylindrical, solid, and measure up to 18 cm in height and 1.5 cm in diameter. The base of the peduncle is ring-shaped with bracts 2-5 mm high, welded at their bases and with irregular triangular ends. The inflorescence rises at the end of the floral peduncle, it is an oval spadix that in the adult state reaches about 2.5 to 3 cm wide and up to 5-6 cm long, it is covered by capitate bracts, hexagonal in tangential view, deciduous, 2.5mm wide by 5.5mm high (Fontana & Popoff. 2006).




Exploring Savanna #10, Parque Nacional Laguna de Tigre

Posted June 17, 2022. Written by Nicholas Hellmuth

It is exhausting to hike from base camp (tents far away along Rio Sacluc) to reach Savanna #10. So we have to stop to rest a few minutes every hour (or every kilometer). This seasonally inundated savanna is so large and has so many different ecosystems within its several square kilometers that we visit here several times each year (since in each month different plants are flowering).

Three of the team are resting up in the calabash tree, the other ten are below. A football field behind us are lots of clusters of tasiste palm, found in most seasonally inundated savannas.

Edible Vanilla

Photo by Emanuel Chocooj with DJI Phantom 4 drone June 5, 2022.




Theobroma species and varieties of native cacao

Posted June 13, 2022

Cacao of Guatemala (and surrounding countries of Central America) comes in different species, different surface texture, different colors: each kind of Mayan cacao for great chocolate of different flavors.


Theobroma-bicolor-cacao Theobroma-cacao

Normally this kind of “cacao” is in the western hills of the Maya Highlands. We have also found thousands of this species in groves all around remote areas of Alta Verapaz. We have been driving thousands of kilometers each year to reach remote areas to find and photograph (in high resolution) the different colors and surface texture of different Theobroma species (and different varieties) of cacao. You might enjoy exploring these cacao orchards with us; all are around homes of local people.

I was totally surprised to find this species in the Maya Lowlands (literally near sea level). We thank Cornelio for bringing this to our team last week while we were in this area doing research.

The chemicals from this pod are used to treat other plants to cure them (it releases so many chemicals we have to open the window of the studio and shut the door so the gasses don’t spread throughout the entire office).

This is cacao from a Mayan home garden. The home owner kindly donated the cacao pod so we could bring it back to our photo studio to use lighting to show you the true structure of the surface. Other pods are smooth as silk: we are finding lots of different surface textures. As soon as a donation of funding is kindly sent, we will return to the village with a portable studio and photograph each size, shape, and color up in the tree.

Lots more to come (we have been studying Mayan cacao for over 40 years).

These photographs are in the photo studio at the FLAAR Mesoamerica headquarters, Guatemala City.

We use Westcott studio lighting for illuminating the pods. These are better than any of the Made in China lighting.

Photo by Nicholas Hellmuth, iPhone 13 Pro Max.




Maya Theobroma cacao pods come in many different surface textures

Posted June 08, 2022. Written by Nicholas Hellmuth

We have been studying cacao of the Maya since doing photography for Sophie Coe and Michael Coe’s book on chocolate and cacao many decades ago. I drove all the way to Tabasco to do photographs for this book (in all three editions). I have also photographed cacao in the Soconusco area of Chiapas and throughout Guatemala. We have photographed Theobroma bicolor (pataxte, balamte) in the Maya Highlands of Guatemala.

Yesterday we did a lot of photography of Mayan cacao pods of diverse sizes, shapes, colors, and surface textures. Here is one pod: lots more shapes to come in future FLAAR Reports.




Spanish interview at El Búho with Dr Nicholas Hellmuth

Posted June 6, 2022

Dr Nicholas Hellmuth recently gave an interview at El Búho and he shared his comments and thoughts at Canal Más TV, where he spoke about some of his wide experience in Guatemala, FLAAR Mesoamérica and MayanToons. Below you can watch the entire interview.




Another wetland savanna with two fern species (RBM, Peten)

Posted May 29, 2022

About two years ago I was surprised to find a savanna with three fern species; part of the ground was literally a “savanna of low ferns.” So I named it the Savanna of 3 Fern Species. This is in the far northwest part of Parque Nacional Yaxha, Nakum and Naranjo (PNYNN).

A few weeks ago, over a hundred kilometers to the west, we found a wetland area that we named Aguada Los Dos Helechos. Two fern species stood out; the low ferns creating ground cover; the giant fern isolated in a few parts. This giant fern we have found in many areas of PNYNN and in the mangrove swamps of the Municipio de Livingston, Izabal. The giant fern has edible parts; the smaller more common fern we need to identify. We find it around the edges of savannas in the Parque Nacional Laguna del Tigre (PNLT) to the west.

These ferns grow over 2 meters tall; but they are not tree ferns (tree ferns are in the cloud forests of the Highlands and rain forests of the coastal areas of Izabal). These ferns of Peten have no thick or tall trunk. The genus is Acrostichum; I estimate species is danaeifolium, giant leather fern. Aerial photograph by Emanuel Chocooj with DJI drone camera




Aechmea magdalenae, Bromeliaceae family, pita floja, ixtle

Posted May 24, 2022

A focus of our 5-year project (2021-2025) of coordination and cooperation with CONAP for the entire Reserva de la Biosfera Maya of Peten is to find, photograph, document, and publish ecosystems (and species of flora and fauna). I am especially interested in wetlands, including seasonally inundated wetlands. So the pital areas surrounding seasonally dry/seasonally filled aguadas is part of my “to do” list. We have visited and photographed these pital areas before but I wanted good aerial photos so our new drone pilot came with two different models of DJI drones. We register the drone usage with the park administration before arrival and we have GPS MAPS with Garmin equipment showing every place we have been each day.

The spiny terrestrial bromeliad, Aechmea magdalenae, can be easily found in two pital habitats near the mud road between Yaxha and Nakum.

When conservation entities are reforesting areas destroyed for cattle, it would help to plant Aechmea magdalenae around the aguada (in areas reached by water only at the height of the wet season).

The soft yummy liquid and pulp around the seeds are edible. The fiber from the leaves is one of the highest regarded strings in Mesoamerica.

To find the path to reach these two pital areas it helps to have assistance by Teco (Moises Daniel Perez Diaz) and other knowledgeable guides and park rangers. The pital to the west is about 100 meters; the pitel to the east is a bit less. The fruits and flowers are very photogenic (only one fruit in mid-May, so other months are better).

Best place to stay is Ecolodge El Sombrero, just before the entrance to Parque Nacional Yaxha, Nakum and Naranjo.

On the road from Yaxha to Nakum my colleague riding to the front on the motorcycle noticed an ocellated turkey, a magnificent bird of the rainforest ,so he jumped off of the motorcycle on and hiked into a trail so he could have a better look. as he diverged from the sendero to see the ocellated turkey disappear in the jungle depths, he lifted his sight to the canopy forest and was pleasantly surprised to find a wild vanilla orchid vine flower wide open.

A wild vanilla plant is something I had never experienced before, from the moment the first wonder cry for the orchid was heard I couldn’t contain my movement to see it, so I prepared my Sony mirrorless camera and macro lens to photograph this rare rain forest flower. It was identified as Vanilla insignis.


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4x4 Pickup Truck Reviews, Evaluations and Suggestions

Parque Nacional Yaxha, Nakum and Naranjo

Botanical Terms

Smartphone Camera Reviews

Fungi and Lichens

Consulting cacao & Theobroma species

Tobacco Ingredients of Aztec & Maya

Bombacaceae, Bombacoideae

Plants and trees used to produce incense

Camera Reviews for Photographing Flowers and Plants

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)

Flowers, sacred

Plants or trees that are used to produce incense

We Thank Gitzo, 90% of the photographs of plants, flowers and trees in Guatemala are photographed using a Gitzo tripod, available from Manfrotto Distribution.
We thank Hoodman, All images on this site are taken with RAW CF memory cards courtesy of Hoodman.
Pachira aquatica, zapoton, zapote bobo, crucial sacred flower for Maya archaeologists and iconographers
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 Split leaf philodendron, Monstera deliciosa.
Read article on Gonolobus, an edible vine from Asclepiadaceae Family.
Pachira aquatica, zapoton, zapote bobo, crucial sacred flower for Maya archaeologists and iconographers
Flor de Mayo,Plumeria rubia, plumeria alba, plumeria obtusa. Edible flower used to flavor cacao
Guanaba, annona squamosa, Chincuya, Annona purpurea, Sugar apple, Chirimoya

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