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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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.




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.


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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

4x4 Pickup Truck Reviews, Evaluations and Suggestions

Tikal Related Reports


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