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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Senecio Confusus, Mexican Flame Vine

Two more Mayan medicinal plants in our ethnobotanical garden

February 9, 2016

It’s tough to live in Guatemala City, 1500 meters above sea level, with a view of three volcanoes (with one erupting every week or so). The only time we see snow is to watch TV about blizzards hitting US cities. Here we have butterflies, friendly stingless bees (yes, honey bees with no stingers), hummingbirds every day, and lots of flowers.

Last week we noticed that a vine had climbed up our Ceiba pentandra tree (higher than a three-story building even though less than 10 years old!). This vine had orange flowers. Within a week this vine was flowering directly in front of my desk (tough view).

We believe this is Senecio confusus, Mexican Flame Vine (good to attract monarch butterflies). It is used as a traditional medicine by the Mayan and related people as treatment of strokes and muscle aches.

On the other side of the house we have a plant with tiny purple flowers. This is Eupatorium pycnocephalum, used medicinally for stomach pains (including for birth).

Eupatorium pycnocephalum, photographed at our garden.

Medicinal plants of the Mayan culture: also is toxic, yet edible!

Posted Jan. 27, 2016

Ipomoea-alba-moonflower-morning-glory-mayan-medicinal-plant-FLAAR-Mayan-ethnobotanical-garden 9658

Much to our surprise, Ipomoea alba, Moonflower, is also a medicinal plant. I hope it is included in books on Mayan medicinal plants, but I bet it is missing from many of them.

Ipomoea alba is also toxic: and is missing from Plantas toxicas de Mexico, by Abigail Aguilar and Carlos Zolla’s co-authored monograph on toxic plants.

Ipomoea alba is also edible (in Africa and India) so in theory could be edible in Mesoamerica as well (despite being toxic; many toxic plants are eaten readily). Ipomoea alba is native to Mesoamerica, and introduced to the rest of the world. We raise it in our Mayan ethnobotanical and ethnomedicinal garden (to study the structure of the flower as it opens in the evening).

I just did a TV documentary a few months ago where 66% of the native Maya plants eaten by the gourmet chefs were toxic). Note: it depends which part of the plant you eat. Each part of many plants has chemicals totally different than other parts. However on the TV documentary, I myself ate only flor de pacaya, since I have eaten this for years. But I passed on the other two flowers since one comes from a tree named “mata raton.”

And the other flower was from a palo de pito tree, whose seeds are so toxic they can’t be imported into USA as jewelry (lots of bright colored seeds are used to make necklaces throughout Mesoamerica).

To see the video (which fortunately does not include eating the flowers of Ipomoea alba, since I was not yet aware parts of this plant were edible), here is the link: “El sabor de Mi Tierra - Flores Comestibles de Mesoamérica” in Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/121917491



Stop-action digital video photography of flowers

Posted January 14, 2016

In order to show how different sizes, shapes, and structures of Neotropical flowers open, we raise native plants of Mesoamerica in our Mayan medicinal and ethnobotanical garden in Guatemala City.

For the last several months we have done dozens of stop-action sequences of the evening opening of Ipomoea alba (Moonflower). This is a vine related to morning glories. Now the passionflowers are blooming, but in the early morning, before the sunrise.

Here is an example of about 90 minutes of photography by Sofia Monzon, assisted by Senaida Ba.


Lots of medicinal plants blooming in our ethnobotanical garden

Posted January 4, 2016, to begin the New Year

Our Ipomoea alba has been flowering every night (ironic for a member of the Morning Glory genus to bloom in the evening, but that is why this species is named Moonflower!).

What I thought was tomatillo has been blooming, but our flowers are lavender-purple. On the Internet the flowers are yellow. So I have to check what species of Solanaceae this actually is.

Passiflora quadrangularis is growing happily and has a dozen buds ready to burst open. We are trying to learn whether they open in the evening, at night, or very early morning.

Three different kinds of tall shrubs or small trees have sent out tiny white flowers. We will be trying to identify these species so we can post photographs.

It is nice to have a Mayan medicinal plant garden in Guatemala City, with sun almost every day (though we did have two days of misty night rains last week, a surprise in the dry season).

No snow most years, indeed to the contrary, the Volcano Fuego (visible on the horizon) spews out fiery volcanic black sand!

Ipomoea-alba-moonflower-morning-glory-mayan-medicinal-plant-FLAAR-Mayan-ethnobotanical-garden 2788

Crocodiles, Jaguars, Fish, Conch Shells Stingrays, and sharks in Maya murals and art

Posted October 28, 2015

80 Invitacion Hellmuth Mayan ethnozoology animals fauna lecture Oct 30 2015

Friday, 30 October, 2:30pm, in Antigua Guatemala, is the first of eight lectures by eight different archaeologists, zoologists, botanists, and cave explorer. Dr Nicholas Hellmuth is the first speaker.

It is natural to assume that sharks are marine creatures, especially when you are swimming on a beach! But in Mexico and Guatemala, one species of deadly shark swims far up the Rio Usumacinta and on the other coast swims up the Rio Dulce and Lake Izabal.

So we hope to see you at 2:30 pm in Antigua Guatemala (Cooperacion Espanola, one block from main plaza, organized by Fundacion La Ruta Maya).

If you can’t make the lecture, we can provide the lecture to you if you can help us obtain an underwater camera case for our Nikon D810. Either a Subal ND810, or Nauticam NA-D810, or Sea & Sea MDX-D810 underwater housing. In return for a (tax deductible donation) we would provide a copy of the PhD dissertation of Dr Hellmuth PLUS the entire PowerPoint presentation.

It would also help our future research to have an Olympus TG-4 underwater point-and-shoot camera for our assistants (much easier to use than a DSLR when you are faced with a shark!). In return for a donation for this camera we would provide the entire PowerPoint presentation.

If you would like these or any of other archaeology, flora or fauna lectures by Dr Nicholas, in-person, in your home town, anywhere in the world, a donation for the underwater housing + airfare to you city (and a hotel to stay) he can lecture to you, your friends and family; or at a local club, school, or association that you belong to. He can lecture in English, Spanish, or German.






4-petaled flowers Maya ethnobotanical research on water-related plants

Posted October 7, 2015

Fundacion La Ruta Maya has invited Dr Hellmuth to give two lectures in Antigua Guatemala: Oct 23rd in the evening; and Oct 30th in early afternoon. Both topics will be on the iconography and cosmology of water-related symbolism. So we went on another field trip to a water eco-system in Peten to do more documentation for these lectures.

1 Mayan-ethnobotany-iconography-plants-food-fruits-sacred-flowers-trees-Guatemala FLAAR-annual-report-2010-2011 2 Underwater-lilly-Arroyo-Pucte-Apr-22-2013-1121
3 Waterlilly-Arroyo-Pucte-May-10-2013-morning-2235
Examples of water lilies blooming underwater, Arroyo Pucte (Rio de la Pasion, Sayaxche) and Canal de Chiquimulilla (Monterrico). All this will be discussed and explained during the presentation Oct 23rd, Antigua Guatemala.


The focus of the evening lecture is on water lily eco-systems, both above water and underwater. This is because a percentage of these plants bloom underwater; these flowers never reach above the surface. Botanists said this was not true, so we went underwater to record this “impossible” botanical situation.

4-petaled-yellow-flower-Rio-San-Pedro-Martyr-Oct-3-2015-NH-2638 Ipomoea-alba-white-morning-glory-Rio-San-Pedro-Martyr-Oct-3-2015-NH-2784 Ipomoea-violacea-lavander-morning-glory-Rio-San-Pedro-Martyr-Oct-3-2015-NH-2805
Three flowers which grow in the swamps alongside the Rio San Pedro Martyr, with water lilies blooming in the river in front of them.


But the full-color presentation Oct 23rd will showcase all the other beautiful flowering plants which thrive on the shore facing the water lilies in the river. Of these, an unexpected discovery is a 4-petaled flower.

4-petaled flowers are pictured in Late Classic (Tepeu 2) vases, bowls, and plates of Tikal, Uaxactun and neighboring Mayan ruins of Guatemala. Nicholas found several bowls and vases with 4-petaled flowers in the Tomb of the Jade Jaguar which he discovered in Tikal in 1965. No botanist nor archaeologist that we are aware of was able to identify which species of flower was represented until Dr Hellmuth spent three years searching throughout Guatemala to document every single solitary 4-petaled flower that exists.

It turns out that the most common 4-petaled flower grows in the same eco-system as water-lilies (along the Rio San Pedro Martyr in front of Las Guacamayas Biological Station).

If you would like to bring Dr Nicholas Hellmuth to your city (anywhere in the world) he can lecture in Spanish, English, or German (or his PowerPoint can be translated for a local audience into any other language).

E-mail us at FrontDesk “at” FLAAR.org to fly Dr Hellmuth to your city. He can also lecture on the Tomb of the Jade Jaguar of Tikal, on the Sacred Rubber Ballgames of the Maya and Aztec, on medicinal plants of the Maya, and on plants used for dye colorants for Maya clothing.


Finding and photographing more Mayan medicinal plants

Posted September 28, 2015

Whenever we find seeds of medicinal plants we bring them back to our ethnobotanical garden to plant them. So year by year we gradually have a diverse variety of medicinal plants growing around our office.

The importance of having the plants at the office is so we can photograph their flowers. Plus, if the plants are growing on the porch in front of my desk, it is a lot easier to notice in which month the plant is blooming (than trying to find the same plant blooming out in the fields and forests of remote parts of Guatemala).

The reason for photographing the flowers is to help in accurate identification of the plants. Also, most medicinal plants have not been photographed with high-resolution cameras nor with good lighting techniques. So the photographs from the FLAAR team of photographers can assist all those who welcome documentation of rare and endangered species of Mesoamerica

passiflora quadrangularis badea frut 0284

Passiflora quadrangularis, Badea. Fruit in our garden used for seed


Groundwork for re-creating 2000 year old eco-systems for movies and documentaries: Going to SIGGRAPH helps

Posted June 16. 2015

Our long range goals are to assist movie directors and location scouts to have authentic locations for Mesoamerican-related documentaries and movies, and to have remarkably accurate yet memorable eco-systems for any and all animated films on the Aztec, Maya, Olmec, Teotihuacan, Mixtec, Zapotec or other Mesoamerican culture or civilization.

Since Nicholas has worked on the archaeology of Peru for both a Harvard project and then also a Yale project, we could easily transition our abilities on the Maya and Aztec to the Inca.

To reach this level of ability, Nicholas Hellmuth has been doing field work and locational studies for decades. He was in Mexico already at age 16, in Guatemala by age 17, and was living in the seasonal rain forests of Guatemala by age 19.

For the last decade Senior Review Editor Hellmuth and his team of writers and researchers have been writing about digital photography equipment, software, and of course 3D imaging.

Assistant Editor Andrea Mendoza has been working on 3D imaging of the largest trees in Mesoamerica, the Ceiba pentandra, including testing drones for 3D scanning (we quickly learned that a GoPro camera is all PR release and zero actual ability to do this kind of scientific result).

Ceiba pentandra 3D DJI Phantom 2 review scanning Drone FLAAR Reports
3D scanning moving objects 2015 Flaar Reports
Ceiba pentandra 3D DJI Phantom 2 review scanning Drone FLAAR Reports
Digital Photography News, Digital Camera Equipment at Photokina 2012

conferences, 9-13 August 2015
Exhibition, 11-13-August 2015



Giant pod of guapinol, Hymenaea courbaril, found in Q'eqchi' house

Posted June 1. 2015

While visiting the parents of one of the student interns (who has a scholarship from FLAAR to study computer science and Q'eqchi' plant names), we found a substantial pod of guapinol, Hymenaea courbaril.

This pod was significantly larger than the pods we found under a guapinol, Hymenaea courbaril tree 40 minutes east of Lachua, Alta Verapaz.

Size difference is because it is warm climate near Lachua and colder, more mist, and higher altitude between Senahu and Cahabon (where the family of Senaida live).

Guapinol-Hymenaea-courbaril-FLAAR-Westcott-May-15-2015 9090 Giant pod of guapinol, Hymenaea courbaril, found in Q'eqchi' house.


Botanical research on Ceiba aesculifolia seedling growth sequence

Posted May 25, 2015

To help students and scholars, as well as people around the world who are interested in Maya culture, we continue studies of Ceiba aesculifolia. This is the relative of the arbol nacional, Ceiba pentandra. Ceiba aesculifolia, pochote, cebillo in local slang, grows mostly in extremely dry areas, and may have longer conical spines (though many trees have almost no spines whatsoever in one eco-system overlooking the Rio Motagua).

Ceiba aesculifolia seed growth sequence FLAAR Vivi
Here is a drawing by botany student Vivian Diaz, to show the seedling growth of Ceiba aesculifolia.

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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

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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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