Wild edible food plants around Hotel Marina Tortugal

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Native edible plants of the Maya are all around the Hotel Marina Tortugal

It is not often that you find a hotel surrounded by undisturbed rain forest. Most hotels have wide driveways, concrete parking lots, and lawns of flat green non-native grass. There is no driveway at Hotel Marina Tortugal; you park in the town of Rio Dulce and their boat picks you up and takes you the several minutes to the marina on the other side.

In just 20 minutes walking along the raised wooden walkways of the hotel property, I noticed five plants that were edible (meaning people elsewhere in the Americas eat or ate them). Since the Spanish conquest, the Maya today do not eat any of these any more:

  • Montrichardia arborescens, family Araceae, an obvious close relative of a “philodendron” but Montrichardia arborescens is a tree, not a vine
  • Pachira aquatica, zapoton (and lots of other local names); seeds can be toasted and made into a cacao-like drink.
  • Pontedaria cordata, pickerel weed, the most common marsh and riverside plant in the Municipio de Livingston.
  • Sagittaria latifolia, water potatoes, at end of walkway in front of Nature Lodge
  • Rhizophora mangle, red mangrove; hundreds in front and all around the Tortugal hotel and marina lodges.

Along the shores of creeks and rivers nearby we also found more edible plants:

  • Annona glabra, alligator apple
  • Inga species
  • Chrysobalanus icacao, coco plum
  • Cocoloba belizensis, papaturro
Nymphoides indica ingles

Nymphoides indica, water snowflake, is also edible but no two botanical monographs or peer-reviewed journal articles can agree whether it is native in Guatemala or escaped from people's gardens. It is edible in North America. Nymphoides indica grows by the millions in inlets and along the shores of rivers and lagoons of Municipio de Livingston.

Our ethnobotanical field work is part of a 15 month project of coordination and cooperation among FLAAR (USA), FLAAR Mesoamerica (Guatemala) and the alcalde, Daniel Pinto, of the Municipio de Livingston.

Every month different species bloom, so in another month other plants will be flowering along the same shores and same rivers. We tend to only notice a tree or plant if it is flowering.

Grias cualiflora hotel Tortugal

Photograph by Dr Nicholas Hellmuth, Grias cauliflora at Hotel Tortugal with an iPhone 12pro, Jun 19, 2021.

We publish each plant, one by one

Because we are out in remote areas several weeks a month, it’s a challenge to identify each plant, tree, insect, bird that we have photographed. And we take “thousands” of photos every week. So to process all these is a lot of work. Nonetheless, we are producing one fully illustrated FLAAR report on either a plant or an animal/insect/bird each month. Here are the wetlands plants we have prepared so far.

Nymphoides indica ingles

Nymphoides indica ingles

Nymphoides indica ingles

Nymphoides indica ingles

We publish each plant, one by one

Contact information for Tortugal Boutique River Lodge, Restaurant, and Marina

Tortugal Boutique River Lodge, Restaurant, and Marina is the full name that you often find on the Internet. You can also Google Tortugal Hotel and Marina or Tortugal Boutique River Lodge.

Their nice website is: where they list the telephone number +502 5306-6432 or +502 7742 8847

Each of the managers are cordial and cooperative. They assisted us to move our ton of digital camera equipment upon our arrival and helped coordinate each day’s field trips:

The hospitable and helpful owner has experience in Rio Dulce of many decades; Daphene Becker. The marina and lodge bungalows are quite diverse (from honeymoon suite to family lodge; and for us, a base camp for our entire team for several days).

Lanchero: Jacobo Ardon, telephone 3030 4801; he has three boats. Be sure to reserve in advance since often there are so many people visiting Rio Dulce that all lancheros are already booked. Since Jacobo Ardon took us each day, he knows what plants are of interest. He knows each creek, each river, each lagoon (if you are a professor, researcher, or student or if you are into eco-tourism).

Tortugal Hotel


First posted: July 3, 2021

PNYNN and Livingston reports

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We are dedicated to continue to be a source of information and education about flora and fauna of Mesoamerica today that is related to Classic Maya civilization 2000 years ago.

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