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 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.




Heliconia aurantiaca in the Ecoalbergue Lagunita Creek

Posted April 16, 2020


Click to enlarge image

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.

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Parque Nacional Yaxha, Nakum and Naranjo

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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)

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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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