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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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.




Heliconia aurantiaca in the Ecoalbergue Lagunita Creek

Posted April 16, 2020


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Heliconia aurantiaca, Ecoalbergue Lagunita Creek, nicely managed by CONAP and FUNDAECO, near Rio Sarstun, Municipio de Livingston, Izabal, Guatemala, Central America.

Photograph by Nicholas Hellmuth (FLAAR Photo Archive) using a Google Pixel-3XL. March 12, 2020.

In part because there is more rainfall during the year in the Izabal area of Guatemala, you have the potential to find lots of Heliconia species here.

Alta Verapaz is comparable; lots of rain in the rainy season and still humidity even in the “non-rainy” season. Led by Q’eqchi’ Mayan plant scout Senaida Ba (FLAAR Mesoamerica) we have found and documented more species of Heliconia in Izabal and Alta Verapaz and Peten than are in any monograph on Heliconia published in the recent years.

Very easy, 90% of books on Heliconia are on the garden varieties. We study only the wild native Heliconia. Another reason it is easy to harvest information on Heliconia is because we focus on Guatemala. Most monographs focus on botanical gardens or Costa Rica or South America. I have been exploring Guatemala and adjacent Chiapas, Tabasco, Campeche, Yucatan, Quintana Roo, and Belize since age 16 (starting as a backpacker, by myself).

Courtesy of the Alcalde, Daniel Esaú Pinto Peña, and coordinator team of the Municipio de Livingston, Edwin Mármol Quiñonez, Coordinación de Cooperación de Livingston and Juana Lourdes Wallace Ramírez, Asistente Administrativo, Coordinación de Cooperación de Livingston, we have received access to visit all the nature reserves. We found several species between Livingston and Plan Grande Tatin (en route to Cueva del Tigre). And awesome Heliconia aurantiaca in the Ecoalbergue Lagunita Creek nature reserve (Área de Usos Múltiples Río Sarstún, Municipio de Livingston, Izabal, Guatemala).




Manicaria palm, Lagunita Creek nature reserve,
Municipio de Livingston, Izabal, Guatemala

Posted April 25, 2020


Click to enlarge image

Manicaria palm at the entrance to Lagunita Creek nature reserve. this palm, as well as the other species near it, both prefer to grow near a river edge or in seasonally flooded areas.

I have noticed more different species of palms in the nature reserve of Lagunita Creek than any area of Guatemala that I have visited in the recent half century.

They are a challenge to identify as to species without seeing their inflorescence. But university student Victor Mendoza suggests these are genus Manicaria and possibly saccifera species. This is correct since there is no other palm of this leaf structure in this area of Guatemala.

The local name is spelled either comfra or confra.

Since I have never seen this palm before in decades of field trips throughout Guatemala, I took photographs when I saw it at the Ecoalbergue Lagunita Creek nature reserve (Área de Usos Múltiples Río Sarstún, Municipio de Livingston, Izabal, Guatemala).

CONAP and FUNDAECO have accomplished a lot here; the trails were neat and well organized. The local personnel were helpful and hospitable.

If you are a botanist, ecologist, student or individual keen to experience tropical flowers, vines, palms, water plants in an untouristed area, we recommend you visit the Ecoalbergue Lagunita Creek nature reserve in the northeastern corner of the Municipio de Livingston.

You will see lots of tasiste palm and Manicaria saccifera growing around the lodge. When you go up the river (away from the coast), there are more of both species. It would be an interested MS thesis or PhD dissertation on Manicaria saccifera palms to map how far away from the actual sea they can prosper (since clearly they need aspects of salt water). Is it the salt spray in the stormy winds, or high tide that floods low areas with salt water from the Caribbean Sea (via Amatique Bay).

Tasiste palm, Acoelorrhaphe wrightii,than also grows in savannas in Peten, hundreds of kilometers from even brackish water, so tasiste palm has evolved to handle sea water (along the shore of Amatique Bay) and brackish water (on many rivers that flow into Amatique Bay or into El Golfete of Rio Dulce) and seasonally inundated fresh water. But comfra palm grows only along the coast or along nearby rivers with brackish water.

Tasiste is the word used in Peten. Name in Florida is Paurotis or Everglades palm. In the Municipio de Livingston, along rivers and the coast, this is called pimientillo or similar. However, as typical of Spanish names for trees, pimientillo is used for other totally unrelated trees that are not palms. So I prefer the name tasiste.


Updated November 3, 2021.
First posted April 25, 2020.



Water Snowflake waterlily flowers of Rio Dulce, Livingston

Posted April 06, 2020

The flowers of the Nymphoides indica waterlily plant have so much fluff and puff around their petals that they are called Water Snowflakes. These are photogenic especially with a 1:1 tele-macro lens.

Other gardeners use the name Floating Heart for these flowers of Nymphoides indica. I call them “Amazing Fuzzy-Fluffy Petalled waterlily flowers.”

While working together with the team of the Municipio de Livingston, Izabal, Guatemala, with the assistance of local guides, in mid-March 2020 we found entire fields of these waterlily plants in full bloom. Sometimes the Nymphoides indica were by themselves. In other nearby areas hundreds of Nymphoides indica were intermixed with the significantly larger white flowers of Nymphaea alba. In other nearby areas the Nymphaea alba were all by themselves.

We want to return to the Municipio de Livingston and document what other water plants are associated. We hope to find the literally miniature water plants Lemna minor and/or also Wolffia brasiliensis.


Click to enlarge image

Nymphoides indica Water Snowflake waterlily, El Golfete, north, area, near Lagunita Salvador, Google Pixel 3, Mar. 14, 2020, FLAAR-Mesoamerica (probably Juan Pablo).

We were doing field work on both sides of El Golfete, Biotope Chocon Machacas (CECON-USAC), nature reserve Lagunita Creek (CONAP and FUNDAECO), nature reserve Tapon Creek (CECON-USAC) and Rio Dulce Canyon during mid-March. Then the Coronavirus pandemic began with one or two cases in Guatemala so we returned to our offices in Guatemala City. As soon as things open back up, we will be back exploring the remarkable biodiversity and awesome ecosystems of the Municipio de Livingston working in coordination with the helpful and hospitable people there.




Aechmea tillandsioides, Municipio de Livingston, Bright red flowering epiphytic bromeliad

Posted Mar. 31, 2020


Click to enlarge image

Photo by David Arrivillaga with a Nikon D5- Lens 90mm f/2.8 G. Settings: 1/250 sec, f/10, ISO 640.

Click to enlarge image

Photo by David Arrivillaga with a Nikon D5- Lens 90mm f/2.8 G. Settings: 1/250 sec, f/9, ISO 640.

This arboreal bromeliad is common in Izabal, Peten, and probably adjacent Alta Verapaz and certainly in Belize. It grows on tree branches, but often is blown over in rainstorms, so sometimes you find Aechmea tillandsioides on the ground (or the branch + bromeliad land on the ground together so the bromeliad still has a perch).

Our team is working from home offices at the moment, but since it is also important to save the fragile endangered ecosystems, we continue making our material available to the almost half a million readers a year on this web site of FLAAR (USA) and FLAAR Mesoamerica (Guatemala).

If you come to the Municipio de Livingston, departamento of Izabal, Guatemala, Central America you can see, photography, study, and learn about Aechmea tillandsioides bromeliads on tree limbs along the shores of Rio Dulce Canyon, El Golfete area of Rio Dulce, and all nearby lagoons and inlets.


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