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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Flower options to spread their seeds widely
(away from plant)

Posted Nov. 29, 2017


This is how a plant gets ready to disperse its seeds: in this species, windblown, using silk-like fluff to float in the wind.

This is Asclepias curassavica, a tropical milkweed plant of Mexico, Guatemala and other Neotropical countries, which I call the monarch butterfly flower. We raise this in the FLAAR Mayan Ethnobotanical Garden in Guatemala.

Every several months we at FLAAR Mesoamerica, cooperating with FLAAR (in USA), start new research themes. This week Elena suggested seed dispersal by birds and mammals. So I will add a co-project: seed dispersal techniques of plants themselves.

Here in Guatemala the giant Ceiba pentandra trees have silk-like kapok fluff to act as a floating parachute. So the seeds blow in the wind several to many meters away from the parent tree.

We will first identify all trees and bushes and plants of Guatemala which use fluff-like material to facilitate the wind blowing the seeds as far as possible. One of the obvious plants is the “monarch butterfly flower” seed: Asclepias species. We grow these in our Mayan Ethnobotanical Research Garden precisely to attract monarch butterflies.

Already five years ago we studied explosive seed dispersal in depth.

We have a video showing these pods exploding to disperse their seeds.

So season by season we will gradually add new seed dispersal themes to our research. We specialize in high-definition, well illuminated digital photography. The picture shown here is with a Nikon D810 because our Nikon D5 is mainly useful when we need super high ISO or burst-shutter setting. Erick Flores did 5X close-ups of the Asclepias seeds which we will be glad to publish as soon as outside funding comes our way.

To learn about digital camera equipment and increase your knowledge from our digital photography experience, visit www.digital-photography.org.





Senaida Ba, Q’eqchi’ student intern at FLAAR, wins scholarship

Posted Nov. 24, 2017

Senaida Ba, from the mountains between Senahu and Cahabon, was recommended to us at FLAAR by Ing. Mauro Garcia. So Senaida started as a student intern and learned quickly to do photography, to do illustrated FLAAR, and in general documented that she was a good learner.

She applied for, and today was told that she was awarded, a full scholarship to the Universidad Rafael Landívar, Campus SAN PEDRO CLAVER, S.J. DE LA VERAPAZ.

The scholarship for 6 years will result in a capable and well-trained and experienced individual in plants, forestry, and related aspects. The technical name of the program is Ambiental y Agropecuaria.

We look forward to other student interns at FLAAR to apply for comparable scholarships, and to move forward in their lives to long-lasting and well deserved careers.

Congratuations Senaida.


Senaida Ba attended three printer expos in Europe last year. Here she is at Sign Istanbul in Turkey.





Guadalajara International Book Fair
Feria Internacional del Libro (FIL)

Posted Nov. 23, 2017

Report Book Fair Guadalajara Mexico Nov 2016 LB-post

Here is the free FLAAR Report on the last year’s Guadalajara FIL 2016.

The Guadalajara International Book Fair is one of the best in the world, comparable with Frankfurt Book Fair.

Last year Dr Nicholas and graphic designer Lucia Brolo (FLAAR and MayanToons) visited FIL 2016. It was such a great event we are considering to send three to FIL 2017 (Dr Nicholas, Senaida Ba and another of our team of graphic designers for children’s books, www.MayanToons.org).

If you want to see books from publishers in Mexico, Central America, South America, USA, Canada, Europe, Middle East, Korea (and lots more countries) be sure to book a flight to Guadalajara for FIL 2017.











Happy Thanksgiving from FLAAR 2017

Posted Nov 23, 2017

Happy thanksgiving 2016 message from Dr Nicholas FLAAR Reports MQ

Drawing is by two of our team: university graphic design student Mellany and student intern Maria Josefina, copyright 2016 FLAAR.

The ancient Maya of southern Mexico, Belize, and Guatemala had a turkey species totally different than the North American turkey: the turkey of Guatemala is the ocellated turkey (Meleagris ocellata).

We show here two felines getting ready to have their yummy turkey feast (there are five species of felines in Guatemala: jaguar, puma, jaguarundi, ocelot, and margay).

We hope you enjoy our thanksgiving day bird feast humor. Don’t worry, we do not eat wild ocellated turkeys; they are protected species.




Maize, beans, and squash! Was this, or was this not, the heart of the Mayan diet for thousands of years.

Posted Nov 3, 2017


As a student in the 1960’s, most textbooks on the Maya featured maize, beans, and squash in their diet of Mayan foods. Then in 1966 Bronson suggested root crops were crucial to the diet, and several years later Dennis Puleston suggested ramon nuts were equally important.

I have been interested in edible foods of the Mayan people for decades and we now have a list of several hundred edible native food plants of the Mayan people: including edible flowers, edible plant stems, edible leaves, and literally hundreds of edible fruits.

Still, if you enter a Mayan house in a remote area, or if you hike through a milpa in a remote area, what plants to you actually find???

We will continue to work on this project and already have uncovered lots of great information, documented with high resolution photos (we hope you like our photo by Dr Nicholas of the maize, beans and squash that was arranged by Maria Josefina Sequen, one of our helpful Kakchiquel Mayan student interns). She is also an illustrator for www.MayanToons.org.




Happy Halloween 2017

Posted October 31, 2017

Halloween Mayan Toons FLAAR-Reports

Ilustration by Valeria Avilés

The bright orange pumpkins popular across USA for family Halloween decoration is a kind of squash.

Several squash were native to the Maya, Teotihuacan and Aztec areas of Mesoamerica (Central Mexico down to Costa Rica). But the pumpkin of today is descended from what grew thousands of years ago across what eventually became the USA.

In Guatemala we study lots of sizes, shapes, and colors of squash which are native to Mexico and Guatemala. But the traditional Halloween squash is the large and orange (and tastes yummy in pie or soup).

Here in Guatemala I love pepitorio, the seeds of one variety of native squash which is grown near Sayaxche, Peten (and other places in Guatemala). Roast & toast on a skillet for a few seconds, and great taste and very healthy also.

Halloween FLAAR staff office Oct 31 2017 EF 7-web

We usually don't dress for halloween but this year we decided to use Tim Burton's movies as inspiration for our costumes.




New heliconia, now identified

Updated Sept 11, 2017; Posted June 18, 2017


Specimen photographed in Ranchitos del Quetzal, Peten. Photo by Nicholas Hellmuth, Nikon D810 on a Gitzo tripod.

We continue working on improving the lists of Heliconias of Guatemala published by eminent botanists. Not one of these lists is consistent with other lists in other botanical monographs (because the authors were not in each eco-system of Guatemala: we have found two species of wild Heliconia even in the bosque seco parallel to the Rio de los Esclavos).

The Heliconia pictured here is in the impressive garden of Ranchitos del Quetzal, near the Quetzal preserve in Alta Verapaz (directly alongside the main highway towards Coban, CA-14, km 160.5). We photographed this in June and hope to identify its species or variety soon. We also strive to learn whether it is native in nearby areas of Alta Verapaz.

In August Elena Siekavizza was able to identify this as Heliconia adflexa. Then two weeks later Senada Ba spotted the same species up on a hill as we were driving through a remote part of Baja Verapaz. We found out who owned the property and went to ask permission to take photographs; permission was graciously provided.

Heliconia leaves (of other Guatemalan species) are used to wrap tamales. Heliconia leaves of other species are used to thatch Q’eqchi’ Mayan houses in remote areas: we have found two houses thatched with platanillo so far.

It is a challenge to identify atypical heliconia plants since the nice monograph Heliconia an Identification Guide (by Fred Berry and W. John Kress, 1991), is almost three decades out of date. And, as typical of all monographs on Heliconia, is not focused on wild heliconia of Guatemala. Most of the popular books on Heliconia are on garden varieties. Our interest is to encourage growing wild species so their wild DNA can continue.




We are preparing educational material to help Mayan families learn ABCs

Posted Sept. 4, 2017

Our Mayan assistants know plants which are not in textbooks on Mayan agriculture. Our Q’eqchi’ Mayan assistants are writing articles which have information missing from peer-reviewed journals by university professors in USA and Europe.

In remote mountain villages, the kids there are capable of all this, but often the school is a 4-hour hike back-and-forth (not only no school bus, not 4WD pickup available either).

ABC with seeds by Erick Jul 13-14 17 2017 EF 3726 ABC with seeds by Erick Jul 13-14 17 2017 EF 3712

Here is A written with avocados.

Here is Z written with zapotes.

Our goal is to have ABC books and also animated videos (so people can watch them on their mobile phones).

We will use local plants to form each letter of all the ABCs.

We have initiated a series of programs to help education of children in remote areas.

ABC with seeds spelled Jul 17-19 2017 NH-3870

In addition to A, B, C…W, X, Y, Z we will also of course spell out entire words.

Once funding is available, we will also indicate which vitamins, minerals, and other healthy proteins are in each natural food.

This way we can help parents (and grandparents) learn about vitamins, minerals, and food values, in addition to learning how to read.

We can also do these educational concepts in the local Mayan languages, such as Q’eqchi’, Pokomchi, Kaqchiquel and of course we would want to do all the languages of Guatemala.

We welcome contacts with companies, foundations, and individuals who would like to help us: FrontDesk “at” FLAAR dot ORG




Lots of beautiful flowers, including orchids, along the roadsides of Guatemala

Posted Sept. 1, 2017


Driving the back road between Senahu to Tucuru you find lots of orchids. All of Alta Verapaz is moist and most is hills and mountains and rivers. So lots of eco-systems for orchids.

Although we tend to associate orchids with trees, actually there are terrestrial orchids also in Guatemala (precisely along the sides of roads in Alta Verapaz and many areas of the Highlands to the west.


Driving a road (instead of a highway) from Purulha towards Salama (Baja Verapaz) you find lots of orchids in the humid areas (Salama itself is dry, so lots of cacti).

We found orchids in trees, and we thank Alejandro Sagone for knowing their botanical names.

But there were also orchids growing in the ground (there are also terrestrial bromeliads in Guatemala two of which are edible).

Anywhere and everywhere along most highways in Guatemala you can find a rainbow of colors of wild flowers. In Alta Verapaz and Baja Verapaz (if in the cloud forest areas) many of these roadside flowers are ORCHIDS. Yes, WILD orchids by the thousands for kilometer after kilometer.

Many of these roads require 4WD vehicles (and not SUV; they are not high enough to survive the rocks which will shred their axels and anything else low on the chassis).





Why? When? Digiscoping for botanists and flower photographers?

Posted Jul. 28, 2017

Lots of birders use digiscopes to photograph birds that even an 800mm camera lens can barely capture. We have experience with 200mm, 300mm, and 400mm lenses, and will be testing a 600mm prime lens in August.

This conference is made to present the importance of nutrition among Guatemalan children, especially in rural areas, and the health benefits that this can have in the Mayan society.

95 Digiscoping-vs-telephoto-lenses-which-is-better-bird-photography-flowers-Nicholas-Hellmuth-FLAAR-1

96 Digiscoping Desmoncus sp Nicholas Hellmuth

But for photographing plants, not many people suggest a digiscope. But while doing a research project on listing all the heliconia species native to Guatemala, we quickly found out that even a 400mm telephoto lens was not enough.


So we are considering testing and evaluating a SWAROVSKI OPTIK digiscoping system.


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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

Tikal Related Reports


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