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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Gushnay, an edible plant on the trail to Mirador del Cañon Reserve

Posted August 16, 2021

On the trail to the Mirador del Cañon Reserve area we could observe Gushnay (Spathiphyllum blandum) blooming. According to many forest rangers, it is edible and there are also bibliographic references that confirm it. Chizmar (2009) in her publication Edible Plants of Central America, indicates that the inflorescence when it is tender is used to prepare a hot sauce: “Take from one to three inflorescences (depending on the desired quantity) and cook with salt for approximately 20 minutes or start to roast. Then they are macerated with some type of chili or spicy, tomato, onion, vinegar and a little water. The resulting sauce can be used with any meal.”

Gushnay or also called Yuk is a monocotyledonous plant of the Araceae family approximately one meter high, characterized by having a unique greenish-white bract with a greenish-colored spadix-shaped inflorescence. Its leaves are simple, densely grouped from the base and elliptical. Its fruits are green when ripe. It lives in humid forests, between altitudes of 800-1500 m and it is more likely to be found both in Izabal and in Alta Verapaz and Huehuetenango. We wanted to share more information about this plant with you since we will soon release a new animated episode of our division for children, MayanToons, where you will able to see its illustrated flower.




Spathiphyllum cochlearispathum

Spathiphyllum friedrichsthalii

Spathiphyllum phryniifolium

Spathiphyllum blandum

Spathiphyllum floribundum


Gushnay (Spathiphyllum blandum) at Reserva Cañon de Rio Dulce, Livingston. September, 2021.Photo by Brandon Hidalgo, FLAAR Mesoamerica.

Written by Vivian Hurtado & Roxana Leal
Identified Species by Victor Mendoza




Mountain papaya during the road to “Cueva del Tigre”, Livingston

Posted August 11, 2021

Cueva del Tigre is a place in Livingston that you must visit if you like adventure, explore caves, take a dip and of course learn more about flora and fauna. To get to this place you can do it from Río Tatin or ask a vehicle to take you from La Buga to Plan Grande Tatin. We took the route from La Buga, Plan Grande Tatin, hike to Cueva del Tigre and returned to Río Tatin where a boat was waiting for us.

During the pathway you can see different species such as Heliconia spp, Costus spp, Carica wild papaya, Attalea cohune (Corozo), Cecropia peltata (Guarumo) and what surprised us the most was to find Jacaratia dolichaula commonly called jungle “bonete”, mountain papaya or kumche in Q'eqchi language. As mentioned before it is commonly called mountain papaya, since it is a wild relative of papaya and belongs to the same family (CARICACEAE)

This species is within the FLAAR must to find, since several research indicate that it is possibly an edible species. In the future we hope to find more related species of papaya to document and promote their conservation, species such as:


Common name


Jacaratia mexicana



Vasconcellea cauliflora

Papaya cimarrona


Vasconcellea pubescens




Jacaratia dolichaula, bonete de selva trail parallel to Cueva del Tigre, Plan Grande tatin Livingston. First photo was taken by Victor Mendoza, FLAAR Mesoamerica. Second photo was taken by Dr Nicholas Hellmuth with a NikonD810 camera at 1:13pm Jul 31, 2021.

Written by Vivian Hurtado & Roxana Leal
Identified Species by Victor Mendoza




The seasonality of the dry forest of Guatemala

Posted August 10, 2021

When we imagine a forest, many times the first thing that comes to our mind is plenty green vegetation and lush trees. However, when we visit places with different climates, we are able to recognize other types of forests, such as the “seasonally dry” forest. It receives this name because the dry season and the rainy season are very pronounced in these territories. This seasonality is caused by a weather phenomenon called “rain shadow”. When the warm and humid wind travels from the coasts, it collides with the mountains, cooling and discharging water (windward). This is how the rain is formed in the upper parts of the mountains, creating humid or cloud forests, at this point the air is already dry and when it passes to the other side of the mountain it warms up and creates a current of dry and warm air that goes down to the valley, (leeward) generating the conditions of the dry forest.

Much of the vegetation in this forest is deciduous (shed leaves) in the dry season, so many plants flourish during the rainy season. Although we are not always able to distinguish several of the species that reside in this forest due to its seasonality, some of the most common that we can find are: Cactus of the genera Pereskia, Acanthocerus, Stenocereus, Nopalea, among others; Ceibas species such as Ceiba aesculifolia; the Mayflower (Plumeria rubra); the Palo de Jiote (Bursera simaruba); bromeliad species such as Bromelia pinguin and Bromelia hemisphaerica; among other species of flora and fauna which make this place unique and special. Every month when we go to Livingston in Izabal, we enjoy and make stops in this area, especially in Zacapa to continue documenting the beautiful biodiversity of the dry forest.



The dry forest in the dry season (April, 2021) and dry forest in the rainy season (July, 2021)". First photo is by Haniel Lopez and second photo is by Roxana Leal, FLAAR Mesoamerica.

Written by Vivian Hurtado & Roxana Leal
Identified Species by Victor Mendoza




Beach Morning Glory growing in the sand of Livingston

Posted August 9, 2021

During our July-August expedition in Livingston, at the beginning of Quehueche Beach, right next to the bridge that connects it with La Buga, Ipomoea pes-caprae, was documented. Commonly called “Campanilla de playa” in Spanish or “Beach Morning Glory” in English belonging to the Convolvulaceae family. This is a vine that grows in the ground with very showy purple flowers. It has a very thick root that can be 3 meters long and 5cm in diameter, forming a dense mat of low growth that eventually covers the soil completely. The stems can be 30 meters long. It is a plant that tolerates the salinity of the sand on the beaches, it has a great distribution since its seeds are dispersed by the water without being affected by salty water.

This vine is important, as it has different uses. The leaves are edible, cooked and eaten as a vegetable, alone or combined with other vegetebles. Roots are also edible, but in minor quantities because they are strongly laxative. The Beach Morning Glory, also has medicinal properties: leaves are anodyne, astringent, diuretic, emollient, laxative and tonic; the root is diuretic and laxative, as we already mention; the seeds are said to be good remedy for stomach-ache and cramp when chewed; and researches have shown some extracts from the stems has strong anti-tumor actions. It is a good option for ornament too, many times you can find Ipomoea species decorating gardens.

Have you seen this beautiful flower in the beach before?

Reference about uses and information:


Written by Vivian Hurtado & Roxana Leal
Identified Species by Victor Mendoza




Mangroves, one of the most important ecosystems in the world

Posted August 4, 2021

Livingston stands out for the biodiversity of species that inhabit its area. Something that you can find very often is the Mangrove. During these 11 months exploring the lakes, rivers and beaches we have been able to document 4 types of mangroves. Red mangrove (Rhizophora mangle), White mangrove (Laguncularia racemosa), Black mangrove (Avicennia germinans) and Button mangrove also called Buttonwood (Conocarpus erectus). Each one has interesting potential uses, for example, from Buttonwood, Black mangrove and white Mangrove is extracted the bark for tanning animal skins, meanwhile the Red mangrove is used for house construction, fences, tanning skins, dye colorants and the roots are edible.

Fact: Even if the 4 species are called “mangrove”, they belong to different families as you can see in the next table:

Common name

Scientific name


Black mangrove

Avicennia germinans


White mangrove

Laguncularia racemosa


Button mangrove

Conocarpus erectus


Red mangrove

Rhizophora mangle


Mangroves are one of the most important ecosystems in the world, they are valued approximately at $194,000 per hectare annually, according to Costanza et al (2014). Its importance relates principally with the shelter that provide to different species, that’s why are considered biodiversity hotspots; and also because the livelihoods that represent for many local communities. Additional to this, mangroves create living barriers that serve as a natural coastal defense against storm surges, tsunamis, sea-level rise, and erosion, serve as a “nursery” or refuge for the young of a large number of species. And not only this, but, mangroves are essential to maintaining water quality, because its roots can filter and trap sediments or pollutants, preventing contamination of downstream waterways and protecting different habitats, such as coral reefs. Finally, mangroves help to regulate the weather and annually sequester carbon at a rate two to four times greater than mature tropical forests and store three to five times more carbon per equivalent area than tropical forests (IOC-UNESCO).

Avicennia germinans mangle negro at aldea San Juan, Livingston. July, 2021.Photo by Guillermo Cuz, FLAAR Mesoamerica.

Conocarpus erectus mangle botoncillo fruit at Rio Sarstun, Livingston. February, 2021. Photo by David Arrivillaga, FLAAR Mesoamerica.

Laguncularia racemosa mangle blanco green fruits at Playa Quehueche, Livingston. Photo was taken with a Sony RX10 camera, 6mm lens, at 9:32 am, July 29,2021. Photo by Victor Mendoza, FLAAR Mesoamerica.

Rhizophora mangle mangrove red mangle rojo at Lagunita Creek, Livingston. Photo by Dr Nicholas Hellmuth, July 3,2021.

Written by Vivian Hurtado & Roxana Leal
Identified Species by Victor Mendoza




Selenicereus testudo at La Esmeralda, Rio Dulce Livingston

Posted July 14, 2021

During the June expedition for the Livingston Biodiversity Project, Izabal, we observed Selenicereus testudo, a species of cactus found on the branch of trees. On our third day we had the joy of seeing two flowers of this species. Something that we had not seen in the previous months. According to Véliz in “Las Cactáceas de Guatemala” (2008), the species occurs in Chiquimula, Izabal, Zacapa, Alta Verapaz and Petén. Its flowering is nocturnal and happens between April and October.

The same author also mentions that Guatemala is one of the three entities in the Mesoamerican region with the greatest richness of cacti, the other two are the State of Chiapas, Mexico and Costa Rica. In the Guatemalan territory there are 48 native species plus 4 intraspecific categories.

FLAAR Mesoamerica’s team has documented this species in Parque Nacional Yaxha, Nakum y Naranjo. You can find more information here.

Photographed by David Arrivillaga with a Sony A1 using a FE 90mm F2.8 Macro G OSS lens at Rio Dulce. Settings: 1/400 sec, f/9, ISO 1600.

Photographed by David Arrivillaga with a Sony A1 using a FE 90mm F2.8 Macro G OSS lens at Rio Dulce. Settings: 1/400 sec, f/10, ISO 1600.

Written by Vivian Hurtado & Roxana Leal
Identified Species by Victor Mendoza




Trees that flower from trunk or main branches

Posted April 23, 2021

With the help of the Garifuna team of George and his team of Where the Pirates Hide, on the outskirts of the town of Livingston, Izabal, Guatemala, we were able to photograph this remarkable local native tree.




Wetlands ecosystems of the rivers, lakes, and Caribbean Coast

Posted April 20, 2021

This presentation will be in Spanish starting 10 am this Saturday, 24 April.

Though obviously nothing is there until Saturday morning. If you wish to be on our mailing list, please write us FrontDesk at FLAAR.org




March field trip to Municipio de Livingston produces botanical success every day

Posted March 25, 2021

Grias cauliflora tree has flowers on trunk and branches, so this tree is cauliflorous (same as Theobroma cacao, and Crescentia cujete, and Crescentia alata).

The March 2021 ethnobotanical and zoology field trip is the west end of Canyon Rio Dulce and east half of El Golfete, Municipio de Livingston, Izabal, Guatemala, Central America.

Here is David, Haniel and Nicholas with helpful assistants doing the photography of the cauliflorous branches and trunk of Grias cauliflora tree. We have Sony, Nikon, and Canon cameras and every kind of macro lens: 35mm, 50mm, 60mm, 105mm, 200mm Nikon tele-macro, and 180mm Canon tele-macro. Plus a 5X Canon super-macro lens system.




Edible plants for the Classic Mayan people from swamps, marshes, riverside and lake side ecosystems

Posted March 18, 2021

We have been accomplishing field work in the wetlands of the Municipio de Livingston, Izabal, the far eastern side of Guatemala, Central America. We have found dozens of plants, with edible fruits or other edible parts, growing in the marshes, swamps, above the sandy beaches (into the mangrove swamps), and along the edges of rivers, lagoons and estuaries.

We show here the names of the first 26 edible wetlands plants that we have learned about so far. We have found and photographed at least 23 of these and hope to find the missing species in our upcoming field trips.

First we will publish the six edible plants that grow near the sandy coastal areas and within the mangrove swamps near the coast. Then in April we will do another category, and my May or June hope to have all 26 published, with abundant photographs in high-resolution. But at least now we can show you the 26 edible plants.

Shows the Genus species name, and common name, of each edible plant.

Shows in three habitats: coastal sand and mangrove swamps.

Edible plants in marshes.

Edible fruits of trees that grow along the edges of swamps, rivers, and/or lagoons.

Shows the front covers with sample photograph of those trees and plants that we have found and photographed during February and March 2020, then October, November, December 2020, then January and February 2021.

We will be back in these wetlands from 21 March through 28 March to do more field work.

The Maya did not need raised field agriculture engineering work to grow these plants. The Maya did not need drained field agriculture or local variations of chinampas. The Maya did not need to chop everything down to plant these 26 species: all grow naturally and happily by themselves and produce edible fruits and other edible parts every year.


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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

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