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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3 New Publications on Water lilies of Municipio de Livingston, Izabal, Guatemala

Posted August 6, 2020

Nymphaea ampla is a water lily I have been studying throughout Guatemala in rivers and lakesides since the 1970’s. But Nymphoides indica is a tiny flowered water lily that I have not previously noticed. We found thousands of this Nymphoides indica along the sides of lagoons and inlets of El Golfete part of Rio Dulce, Municipio de Livingston, Izabal, Guatemala during our field trip in mid-March 2020.

So we are now presenting one photo album on Nymphaea ampla and two photo albums and bibliography on Nymphoides indica of the same area.

Further research is needed: where else is Nymphoides indica found in Guatemala, Belize, Quintana Roo, Campeche, Tabasco, and Chiapas? Does Nymphoides indica prefer brackish water? A bit of salt water from the Caribbean flows into El Golfete, as do Bull Sharks and other creatures from the Caribbean Sea. But if Nymphoides indica is found in Peten, this means it can grow readily without brackish water.

Is a part of Nymphoides indica edible? And how can we find documentation from Aztec, Mixtec, Zapotec, Maya or other ethnohistorical or ethnobotanical studies that Nymphoides indica is or was indeed consumed by people of Mesoamerica. So far there is no evidence (that I yet know of) that this miniature-flowered water lily is a narcotic as is the larger Nymphaea ampla.

Equally crucial, is Nymphoides indica a plant that was present in Mesoamerica before the arrival of the Spaniards? Or, like many plants in wetlands, did it escape from gardens and spread into streams and lakes?




Ferns and Fern allies to be discovered and documented around Livingston

Posted June 26, 2020

Any area of the world with the tropical temperatures and rainfall of the moist portions of Guatemala will have lots of ferns and fern allies. Normally we (FLAAR, USA and FLAAR Mesoamerica, Guatemala) study trees, bushes, vines and lianas, algae, and lichens. But since we are evolving into studying wetlands and also treetop ecosystems, we will be finding lots of ferns and their relatives.

We found an entire seasonally inundated “Savanna of 3 Fern Species” at the northwest edge of Parque Nacional Yaxha Nakum Naranjo last year. We will now be looking for unique biodiverse ecosystems in the wetlands of the Municipio de Livingston: swamps, marshes, seasonally inundated flatlands, etc. Lots will have terrestrial ferns that prefer to grow in wet areas. So around the photogenic bogs alongside Rio Dulce and inlets and lagoons especially on the north side of El Golfete we will be looking for Acrostichum danaeifolium, giant leather ferns, also known as mangrove ferns.

Plus, up in the tall trees, ferns love to grow on tree limbs. Ericka Garcia and Boris Llamas, of UVG, are very experienced and adept at rappelling up into treetops to study what’s up there.

So once the Coronavirus epidemic has subsided we look forward to finding lots of ferns and fern allies along the Rio Dulce and all the other rivers, lakes, and hills of this part of Izabal, Guatemala, Central America.




Plants of the dry forest corridors of Guatemala, Central America

Posted June 18, 2020


El Bosque Estacionalmente Seco de Guatemala: Flora, Fauna y Cultura This book has dozens of chapters, including: Flora, Insectos, Arácnidos, Anfibios, Reptiles, Aves and Mamíferos. So covers Insects, Arachnids, Amphibians, Reptiles, Birds and Mammals in addition to plants. Editors:

  • Jiichiro Yoshimoto, Universidad del Valle de Guatemala
  • Daniel Ariano-Sánchez, Universidad del Valle de Guatemala, Centro de Estudios Ambientales y Biodiversidad

183 pages, published by Serviprensa in 2017 which means the information is pertinent and relevant. Information from past decades definitely also continues to be useful, but it helps to have recent documentation also.

My first experience with the corridor de bosque seco parallel to the Rio Motagua was when I took a train from Guatemala City to Quirigua (probably in 1963 or 1964). The train was still in full operation then. Then in the 1970’s, I drove back and forth to do mapping of Yaxha (Peten) year after year after year (so saw the bosque seco out of both sides of my window).

In 2015 I did research on where Plumeria could be found, wild, in Guatemala, so I made several field trips to the dry area parallel to the Rio Sacapulas.

And driving to Copan Ruinas in Honduras I have passed through dry areas of Zacapa every decade since the 1960’s. Since in the 1960’s there were no buses on the final segment to get to the border, I would hitch a ride on top of a cargo truck (so you got a great view; and it cost less than even a 3rd class bus).

I am really curious about Ceiba aesculifolia, so frequently, year after year, stop to study this the flowers in the evening and the kapok in later months. I am very sad that this May, 2020, it is no longer possible to study the kapok production (which is in May and June for Ceiba aesculifolia on the hills overlooking the Motagua River below). It is not possible to reach the bosque seco area due to highways being closed for Coronavirus spread prevention; no one is allowed to travel from one departamento to another (so we have not done field work since finishing our last field trip (in the Municipio de Livingston, Izabal) on March 15th, 2020).

As soon as it is possible to fly back to Guatemala I will read this book from cover to cover. We thank Dr. Yoshimoto for donating a copy to FLAAR Mesoamerica. We thank Victor Mendoza for receiving the book on our behalf so we can all read it later.




A “tasistal” is a remarkable ecosystem in Guatemala

Posted May 21, 2020

Tasiste palms, Acoelorrhaphe wrightii, grow in clusters; a cluster is perhaps 11 or more stems (trunks) physically next to each other growing from a single root mass. A seasonally inundated savanna could have dozens of clusters. The Savanna East of Nakum had perhaps 100 clusters; the Savanna West of Naranjo had a dozen or so clusters; the Savanna of 3 Fern Species (far west of end of Lake Yaxha and then uphill to a plateau) had a few clusters. Since it takes many hours to hike back and forth, and since camping overnight is not recommended or permitted, no one has yet made complete lists what species of plants are in the rectangular section of this savanna area; we had time to explore only parts of the circular area; much of which is a bog; much has a meter of water plus mud even at the height of the dry season of a really dry year.

A tasistal with tasiste palm trees has maybe 50,000 clusters or 70,000 clusters (we estimate a single tasistal can have up to 1,000,000 stems (in lay person’s terms, almost one million palm trunks). Each stem is a complete tree; just that lots of stems grow next to each other from one circular root mass. Stem is a technical botanical term: they are individual tree trunks of a tasiste palm.

We now have four reports for you to experience this remarkable ecosystem.

Click to Download

Click to Download

Tasistal Arroyo Petexbatun, photos of Acoelorrhaphe wrightii palms from ground level

Tasistal Arroyo Faisan, photos of Acoelorrhaphe wrightii palms from ground level

Click to Download

Click to Download

Tasistal Arroyo Petexbatun, drone photos of Acoelorrhaphe wrightii palms

Tasistal Arroyo Faisan, drone photos of of Acoelorrhaphe wrightii palms

We appreciate Julian Mariona for telling us about these tasistal areas and the local Sayaxche area guides who took is to Arroyo Faisan and we appreciate the permission of the land owners to visit and study these areas.

Another place to study Acoelorrhaphe wrightii palms is in the Municipio de Livingston, Izabal, Guatemala. Here we have not (yet) found any savannas; the Acoelorrhaphe wrightii palms here are called pimientilla, and are along the edges of rivers, creeks, and lagoons. The Livingston area Acoelorrhaphe wrightii palms we will publish in June.




Municipio de Livingston ecosystems, PowerPoint is now available in English

Posted May 13, 2020

This series of photographs of ecosystems of Izabal and Peten is available in two formats, 6MB and 27MB. You can post this, share it, use in in your classrooms presentations (no permission required).

The Spanish original (with video and voice) is already available below. The PowerPoint (in .pdf format, above) is updated with additional written text.




Video of presentation of Nicholas Hellmuth on biodiversity of ecosystems of Municipio de Livingston, Izabal and savannas of PNYNN, Peten

Posted May 06, 2020

The entire presentation (PowerPoint plus voice) is now available courtesy of Muni Guatemala.




Video conference on Biodiversity of Ecosystems Municipio de Livingston, Izabal, Guatemala via ZOOM

Posted May 01, 2020

Unfortunately Zoom could handle only 100 people at a time, so the presentation was sold out quickly. Now, in the link for May 6, the entire presentation is now available as a download for you.




Heliconia latispatha, Livingston, Plan Grande Tatin, Cueva del Tigre

Posted April 30, 2020


Click to enlarge image

Photo of Heliconia latihpatha by Alejandra Gutierrez with a Sony ILCE-7RM4 camera, using a FE 90mm F2.8 Macro G OSS lens. Settings: F13, Speed 1/1250, ISO 3200 by the Aldea Tatin Road.

Between the town of Livingston and the aldea of Plan Grande Tatin, and from there to Cueva del Tigre, we found OVER ONE MILLION heliconia plants of the species Heliconia latispatha: literally. There were areas of the roadside with SOLID heliconia plants for as far as the eye could see. And even in the milpas (maize fields) you could see baby heliconia leaves sprouting up from the ground (so by the time the maize is harvested the heliconia will take over the entire field).

I have not yet noticed any book or peer-reviewed journal article on slash-and-burn Maya agriculture that mentions Heliconia as a primary ground cover! Hopefully a colleague can remind me of a report that I have not yet read that mentions heliconia as the PRIMARY ground cover. Because we have visited other areas of Guatemala that are also literally filled with native wild Heliconia plants, usually of several species in one area.

Very simple, 80% of the reports on milpas are in ecosystems where Heliconia is not as prominent as in the humid areas between Livingston and the Q’eqchi’ Mayan settlement of Plan Grande Tatin (from here you hike by trail to Cueva del Tigre.

If you are studying milpa agriculture and would like to report on something new and different, this area is available to visit.

If you are a botanist there are at least four species of Heliconia in this one area of Izabal, Guatemala. We show three of them on this page. We would not be surprised if there were additional species to find here. So the Municipio de Livingston is a great place to visit to learn about plants and biodiverse ecosystems that you can’t always find in other areas.




Nymphaea ampla, white waterlily, can be seen all over El Golfete

Posted April 29, 2020

There are so many “fields” of thousands of white waterlilys in several areas of El Golfete, Rio Dulce, Municipio de Livingston, that you can see these fields from Google Maps, Satellite view.

During our mid-March field trip to the El Golfete and Lagunita Creek areas of Izabal, Guatemala, we took lots of photographs of these impressive flowers. The first report is now available.

We are preparing a second report on Nymphaea waterlilies of other areas of Guatemala compared to the thousands you can find here in the El Golfete area of Rio Dulce, Municipio de Livingston. That second future report will discuss other species that also exist in the Maya Lowland areas.

We also have a work in progress on the tiny white flowers of Nymphoides indica. Sometimes they grow in extensive areas by themselves; in other areas a few hundred meters away the two kinds of waterlilies are next to each other.

Since the larger waterlily is the single most common flower featured in Classic Maya stelae, stucco, murals, and ceramic vases, plates, and bowls, it helps to know where in Guatemala you can easily travel to see these large Nymphaea species in front of you.




Maya Gold, Maya Blood; Heliconia champneiana, “Splash” Heliconia, Cueva del Tigre, Plan Grande Tatin, Municipio de Livingston

Posted April 20, 2020

We found lots of Heliconia species parallel to the road from the town of Livingston to the Mayan Q’eqchi’ village of Plan Grande Tatin. Then more Heliconia on both sides of the trail from Plan Grande Tatin village to Cueva del Tigre (Municipio de Livingston, Departamento de Izabal, Guatemala, Central America).

  • Heliconia aurantiaca was rare, but present.
  • Heliconia champneiana, about a hundred plants seen the whole day
  • Heliconia latispatha, always the most common

Senaida Ba, our in-house Heliconia specialist, said she also noticed one plant of Heliconia wagneriana, but we had to hike so many hours that none of the team photographed it. The Heliconia latispatha was easier to photograph since there were many thousands on each side of the road.



Click to enlarge image

Click to enlarge image

Heliconia champneiana, Maya Blood, Maya Gold; sometimes named Splash. Along the trail from Plan Grande Tatin village to the town of Livingston, Izabal, Guatemala, Central America.

The color varies depending on how old the inflorescence is. On the Internet, most of the examples are from other countries, or are bred for a special color. We study only wild native Heliconia out in the fields and forests of Guatemala. Izabal area has more species than most other areas of Guatemala.

Photographs by Nicholas Hellmuth, FLAAR Photo Archive, iPhone Xs, March 9, 2020.

To See, Experience and Photograph wild native Heliconia

If you plan and prepare tour groups for botanical gardens around the world to see and encounter tropical plants in their original native habitat, we have experience with both private tours (an individual, spouses, friends, or family) plus experience with tour groups.

We know areas with orchids, bromeliads, arboreal cacti; we know Guatemala and adjacent countries for over 50 years (but we focus now on Guatemala, flora and fauna (water birds, butterflies, pollinators, monkeys, etc.)).

If you are a botanist, ecologist, or student looking for a thesis or dissertation topic, you can get lots of tips from our web pages, our bibliographies, etc.

These Heliconia were within 2 meters of the road. So imagine how much fun to be standing in front of them, to learn about the different parts (the inflorescence is not the flower; the flower is in the bract).

There were, literally, THOUSANDS of Heliconia latispatha on both sides of the road. All this is waiting for you in the Municipio de Livingston, in the Caribbean edge of Guatemala, Central America.


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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

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Flowers native to Guatemala visible now around the world

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Fruits (typical misnomer mishmash of Spanish language)

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We Thank Gitzo, 90% of the photographs of plants, flowers and trees in Guatemala are photographed using a Gitzo tripod, available from Manfrotto Distribution.
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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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