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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Water lilies surround Crocodiles in Late Classic Maya Art

Posted May 31, 2022

I estimate there are more water lily flowers in the 5th through 9th centuries than all other flowers combined. Second most popular flower in Maya art would be 4-petalled flowers of many different species of often water-related plants; #3 might be the Fleur de Lis, sometimes a Pseudobombax ellipticum or Pachira aquatica or composite). But water lily flowers, water lily seed pods, and water lily pads are very very common.

This lecture is July 27, 2023, in the Universidad Francisco Marroquin, organized by the Museo Popol Vuh, by MPV curator Camilo Luin. Lots of other lectures by epigraphers and other iconographers for several days. More info and links once July is upon us.

FLAAR can also offer lectures on the iconography of 4-petalled flowers in Classic Maya art.


The water lily of the Maya world, Nymphaea ampla, is the flower most frequently pictured in Classic Maya art. We will be showing several water lily Underwaterworld scenes in our July lecture on iconography and herpetology of crocodiles of the Maya Lowlands (Guatemala and surrounding countries).

This plate is a drawing by FLAAR illustrator published by Hellmuth in the mid-1970’s. The drawing has been redone by many other illustrators and posted other in locations. The dancing idealized young Maya man at the left wears a crocodile headdress (he seems to point at a waterbird who just caught a fish).

Although the lecture is focused on crocodiles, we will also mention God N’s association with crocodiles (in this scene on a Late Classic polychrome plate the personage inside the shell is not the elderly version; Old God N is by far more common). God N lives inside a conch shell, snail shell, turtle shell, spider web and other surroundings (like a hermit crab).




Mangrove remnant along Rio San Pedro (perhaps the most inland growing mangroves in the world)

Posted April 14, 2022

In March of 2023 our expedition team found and documented mangrove trees along Rio San Pedro, and this has been an exciting finding for our team! This mangrove remnant is remarkably unique, as well as its evolutionary history.


Mangroves have bright green leaves and characteristic aerial roots. Photo by: Vivian Hurtado. Rio San Pedro, March, 2023.

We first got to learn about these mangrove remnants through a series of media publications related to a research project in Mexico (this is Aburto-Oropeza et al. 2021’s study which will be cited later on this note). The researchers of this project located and sequenced various mangrove populations scattered inland throughout the Yucatan peninsula, including some important remnants in the basin of Rio San Pedro. Moreover, some of the highlights of this study include the documentation of a mangrove forest that is located 170 km inland from the Atlantic ocean.

Given that the researchers also mentioned the existence of isolated mangroves in the Guatemalan portion of Rio San Pedro, we decided to start investigating this topic. In that sense, we were able to find that the presence of mangroves in this area had already been discussed in at least two publications, one by Bestelmeyer and Alonso (2000) and the other by Castellanos (2006). We also looked at satellite images of this area, and we found that most of the river's basin is already deforested. So the only chances of finding mangroves would be by asking local people and navigating the river.


Mangroves have bright green leaves and characteristic aerial roots. Photo by: Vivian Hurtado. Rio San Pedro, March, 2023.

Later on, by the request of Mirtha Cano (biologist and administrator of one of the protected biotopes located next to Rio San Pedro) we planned an expedition to Rio San Pedro and Rio Escondido for another documentation project. However, to make the most of this expedition, we started asking local people if we could find the mangroves of Rio San Pedro. And indeed, we found that it was possible to get to some mangrove trees by navigating up river from El Naranjo village, so we did the proper planning to look for the mangroves in the same expedition.

Later on the actual trip, the expedition team did find the mangrove trees, and photographed them. Since then, the team has learned a lot about these mangroves' history and ecology. According to Aburto-Oropeza et al. (2021) these mangrove remnants first got here 120,000 years ago, because of a higher level of the sea. Nowadays, they still survive here because there is a high concentration of calcium in Rio San Pedro. If it was not for the leakage of calcium to the river (from the karstic soils that surround it), these mangroves wouldn't still be growing here. In fact, mangroves are coastal species that grow only on brackish water, with mangroves of Rio San Pedro being an amusing exception.


Mangrove propagule (still attached) collected at Rio San Pedro. Photo by: Vivian Hurtado. Rio San Pedro, March, 2023.

We are currently finishing a PDF report with the photographs of this expedition and helpful data that may assist you, if you are a student or researcher, to learn more about these remarkable mangroves. We hope that our work and the documentation we are doing with these mangroves can encourage you, and the local authorities to study and protect these mangroves. As mentioned before, most of the river basin is deforested and only a few vegetation patches persist, so the risk of losing these mangroves is alarmingly high.

We are planning a second expedition to this area later on this month and we encourage you to look in the next few weeks for the PDF on these mangroves and other ecosystems of the same area.

Bibliography on mangroves from Rio San Pedro

  • 2021
  • Relict inland mangrove ecosystem reveals Last Interglacial sea levels. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 2021. Vol. 118, No. 41. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2024518118

Note: This is Aburto-Oropeza et al. ambitious study. They even found another mangrove species, Conocarpus erectus, in the inland mangrove associations from Tabasco, as well as other plant species from coastal mangrove associations.




Haematoxylum brasiletto flowering in bosque seco area of Guatemala

Posted January 22, 2022

At km 93, from El Rancho northward (heading for Coban), there is Haematoxylum brasiletto in full flowering mode this week.

This tree grows surrounded by cactus plants.

In Peten the palo de campeche grows in seasonally inundated swamps. But palo de tinto flowers in a different month.

We use the route through Alta Verapaz to drive from the FLAAR Mesoamerica office to accomplish field work in the PNYNN and PANAT areas of the RBM, Peten.

Lots of friendly bees sucking nectar out of the pretty yellow flowers.




Over 190,000 unique hosts read this FLAAR website on plants of Guatemala

Posted Jan 18, 2023

Alejandra Valenzuela, web statistics, FLAAR Mesoamerica, has provided the statistics. The average-per-month January through October is about 14,000. November and December the number almost doubled (to 27,967 in December). Total for the year is about 190,000.

We continue to receive appreciation from readers for the high-quality photographs of the FLAAR team and the FLAAR Reports that we issue.




Happy Holidays from Nicholas and the FLAAR team

Posted Dec 21, 2022

Eating chocolate from Theobroma cacao of Guatemala is very healthy. Over a thousand years ago one kind of chile was used so often as a flavoring that still today it is called chile-chocolate. So we wrote our holiday greeting with chile-chocolate on top of cacao seeds (sometimes called cacao beans).




Plants (alcoholic and hallucinogenic?) in Classic Maya Enema Rituals

Posted Nov 17, 2022

Lots of plants are shown sticking out the top of enema jugs. This PowerPoint will show lots of these; it is still a mystery what kinds of plants or plant parts. Plus, what are the Maya sniffing (in the bouquet)?

On Monday evening, Nov 21, 2022, a PowerPoint presentation will be delivered by Nicholas Hellmuth on his research on enemas that started in 1977. This research won the Ig Nobel Prize 2022 for art history for Dr Hellmuth and Dr Peter De Smet. The iconographic aspect has been updated for the November 2022 presentation.

Classic Maya Enema Ritual Iconography

The Mysterious World of Maya Enemas

  • Enema Jugs with plants sticking out the top?
  • Enema Syringes
  • Enema Bibs
  • Enema Rituals
  • Jaguars in Enema Rituals
  • Females in Enema Rituals
  • “bouquets” of flowers or plant parts? Being “sniffed” prior to enema injection?
  • “lipstick” containers, and other cups of unknown materials.

8 pm EST, 7 PM CT, via ZOOM, via The Aztlander (newsletter) (link is on attached PDF) https://us02web.zoom.us/j/89340702821

For zoologists: in addition to the common jaguar, deer, monkeys and other animals (or people in animal costumes) are occasionally present.

For iconographers: this ritual is shown in this PowerPoint much more often than published so far. Women are present in many of the scenes, however they themselves do not receive enemas; the females prepare the men to receive the injection.

For epigraphers: updated study is needed of all the hieroglyphs and symbols associated with the enema jug and participants. The lecture shows dozens of enema jugs. Many of these jugs have hieroglyphs on the jug and other symbols nearby.

For botanists: LOTS of plants were ingredients in the enemas. Peter De Smet has studied this aspect in his PhD and subsequently. I still estimate that lots more plants were added (including possibly cacao). His documentation will be cited in the bibliography. LOTS MORE TO STUDY on the ethnobotanical area and ethnopharmaceutical aspects. Not only what was in the jug, but what was in the other containers used in the ceremonies, and the “bouquets”.

The lecture will be in English but questions can be asked and answered also in Spanish.




Botanical and Ethnobotanical presentation in Puebla, Mexico

Posted September 22, 2022

Several months ago, organizers of a Mesoamerica-focused botanical organization wrote FLAAR/FLAAR Mesoamerica to ask if we could provide a PowerPoint presentation on botany of Guatemala at their XXII Congreso Mexicano de Botánica. So we accepted and this weekend two of us (Nicholas Hellmuth and Belén Chacón Paz) fly to Mexico City and then transfer to Puebla. Chacon has been doing her own field work in Izabal on manatee. For FLAAR Mesoamerica she works on our wild native edible foods project.

Pontederia-cordata-edible plant-Nov-2021-Nikon-D810

Pontederia cordata – edible plant – Nov 2021 – Nikon D810 Photo by Nicholas Hellmuth

The slot provided of Sept. 27, 2022, has 15 minutes for presentation and 5 minutes for questions-and-answers. I will start to show the plants of different wetlands ecosystems of the eastern half of the Municipio de Livingston, Izabal, Guatemala. Then the rest of the lecture will be on what wild native plants we have found in wetlands of the Reserva de la Biosfera Maya (RBM) of Peten area of Guatemala. We will focus on wetlands of PNYNN, PNLT, and La Gloria concession area of Municipio San Jose. Wetlands of PANAT we will initiate in October, so that would be for a future update.

Rio Lampara

Pontederia cordata – edible plant – Nov 2021 – Nikon D810 Photo by Nicholas Hellmuth

Our PPTx has all high-resolution digital photos from aerial cameras and ground level panoramas plus macro close-ups of flowering plants. FLAAR specializes in digital photography so we wish to show to hundreds of capable botanists at this event how it helps to have digital photography equipment (so not just a point-and-shoot camera).

Rio Lampara

Pontederia cordata – edible plant – Nov 2021 – Nikon D810 Photo by Nicholas Hellmuth




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.


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Parque Nacional Yaxha, Nakum and Naranjo

Smartphone Camera Reviews

Fungi and Lichens

Botanical Terms

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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