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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Manicaria saccifera, confra palm, found only in coastal Izabal

Posted October 23, 2020

Peten and Alta Verapaz are palm paradise areas of Guatemala, but it turns out that there is a popular palm species, Manicaria saccifera, confra palm, that is found in Guatemala ONLY in salt water and brackish water coastal areas of the Municipio de Livingston and adjacent parts of coastal Izabal, Guatemala.

More info on our Manicaria saccifera, confra palm web page.




Passionflowers of healthy edible fruits native to Guatemala

Posted September 3, 2020

Guatemala is a living botanical garden of every habitat you can imagine from cloud forests to seasonal rain forests to the totally different dry cactus-covered hills along Rio Motagua and Rio Sacapulas. Plus the Pacific Ocean water lily lagoons of Monterrico and of Arroyo Pucté in Sayaxché. And the photogenic heliconia-filled fields of the Caribbean areas of Rio Dulce.

If you like tropical flowers, a location I recommend visiting is Parque Nacional Yaxha Nakum Naranjo. We (FLAAR Mesoamerica research teams in Guatemala) found different sizes, shapes, and floors of passionflower vines in the remarkable biodiverse ecosystems of the park. So we now have a new web page to show you samples.

Local registered guides in Peten can explain which flowers are blooming in which months (since every month is different, and every ecosystem has different flowers: savanna, riverside, lakeside, hilltop, tintal, etc.).

I have traveled to all the main popular destinations around the world, but my heart and soul are in the Peten, Alta Verapaz, and Izabal areas of Guatemala. As soon as the airports are open, I will be flying back south to explore and find more plants. We thank Passiflora botanist Dr John MacDougal for helping us identify the species of passionflower vines.




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.


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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

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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

4x4 Pickup Truck Reviews, Evaluations and Suggestions

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