Pachira aquatica trees have one of the Top 10 most photogenic flowers in Guatemala

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Pachira aquatica tree flowers easy to find along Rio Dulce

Pachira aquatica tree flowers are along edge of every river and lake in Municipio de Livingston. There are hundreds of these water-loving trees on both sides of the Highway CA13 bridge over Rio Dulce. Then when you take the boat shuttle to town of Livingston you can find even more.

If you are adventurous and hire your own private boat, he can take you up and down the various rivers that enter the north and south sides of El Golfete area of Rio Dulce. Along these rivers you will see even more of these Pachira aquatica trees.

You can notice them by the giant fruits, called zapoton (which in Spanish means giant zapote fruit). Or you can notice the gorgeous flowers. The Pachira aquatica tree flowers and fruits much of the year (in March primarily on two different tributaries). In February and other months there were flowers in more areas.


Pachira aquatica tree flowers

These are the largest flowers of the Bombacaceae family (now part of Malvaceae). They are very photogenic, especially when freshly opened in the morning. The flowers of several other species of the Bombacaceae family have the same shape and structure, but the Pachira aquatica flowers are the largest (and include diverse colors within the same flower).


Pachira aquatica tree fruits: edible

These are one of the largest fruits of any native tree of Guatemala. A mature fruit is so heavy even one single zapoton is a challenge to carry easily. We will be showing what’s inside in our upcoming report later this year.

Relatives of Pachira aquatica trees that also grow in Guatemala

  • Family Bombacaceae (this was the standard name for a century)
  • Then renamed Sub-family Bombacoideae of mallow Family Malvaceae
  • Now pretty much considered just Family Malvaceae
Genus species where comments
Bernoullia flammea Common at Tikal, present at PNYNN, common near El Chal (Peten) We have lots of close-up and landscape photos; flowers are completely different in every respect to their relatives.
Ceiba aesculifolia Bosque seco (Rio Motagua, CA9, Km 90-110), often surrounded by cacti We have “thousands” of photographs over the years
Ceiba pentandra Common in Costa Sur, in Alta Verapaz, and some areas of Peten. Surrounds town of Livingston. We have one of the largest photo archive of Ceiba pentandra trees, spines, flowers, and kapok in the world
Chiranthodendron pentadactylon Near volcanos, so not in Lowlands We have taken entire portable photo studios up the volcanic slopes to get awesome photos
Ochroma pyramidale In northern Alta Verapaz and adjacent Peten and elsewhere. Not common in Izabal We have photos of every phase of blooming, flowers, and kapok seed pods from over a decade to where this tree is common.
Pachira aquatica Very common in swamps, marshes, and along edge of rivers and lakes We have “thousands” of photographs, in Livingston area and along Rio San Pedro (western Peten)
Pseudobombax ellipticum Present in PNYNN, very common along rivers in Municipio de Livingston, Izabal We have a lot of photos of the flowers
Pseudobombax ellipticoideum Highlands; pink-red flowers (not white) FLAAR has outstanding photos from past year
Quararibea funebris, Quararibea yunkeri Two to three species possible in Izabal We have found and photographed one species in Parque Nacional Yaxha, Nakum and Naranjo recently. Have not yet seen them in bloom in Izabal (they are up on the hills probably; not facing the rivers).


Our reports on Pseudobombax ellipticum and our full report on Pachira aquatica (a PDF download that should be ready by May or June 2021) will show all genera and species of plant family Bombacaceae that have “fleur de lis” style flowers. You will be surprised to learn the potential uses of this giant fruit. The Classic Maya had this tree and its flowers and fruits available for thousands of years.


How to get to Municipio de Livingston, Izabal, Guatemala

Drive highway CA9 to the turnoff to Peten (CA13) and in less than an hour you are in the town of Rio Dulce. You can take a shuttle or rent a private boat to the town of Livingston with lanchero. If you want to stop to take photos of all the diverse waterbirds and tropical flowers along the route it’s best not to be in a hasty water-taxi (shuttle) but to have your own boat so you can ask the lanchero to stop the boat every time you want to enjoy looking at a particular species of waterbird or tropical flower.

Or drive to Puerto Barrios, park you car near the municipal muelle, and take a water taxi to Livingston and then a shuttle/water taxi to Rio Dulce the next day (after you spend the night in the pleasant Garifuna town of Livingston).


Posted April 9, 2021

PNYNN and Livingston reports

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