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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Passiflora, passionflower vines, Parque Nacional Yaxha Nakum Naranjo, Peten, Guatemala

Lots of Passifora vines, passionflowers, and fruits around Yaxha and Nakum

While hiking up the hill from the shore of Lake Yaxha towards the acropolis of the Post Classic Maya site of Topoxte (Island), our guide (Teco) noticed fruits of a Passiflora vine on the ground. The vine was so high in the tree I had to use binoculars to find it. This is why you need an 800mm prime telephoto lens if you are doing botanical field work. Or at least a 600mm lens.

Botanist Dr John MacDougal kindly identified the fruit (keeping in mind you need a flower to be sure; there were no flowers the day we saw the fruit). We thank the local guide, Teco (Moises Daniel Perez Diaz) for noticing the fruits.

Fruits of a Passiflora vine on the ground, along the trail from the boat dock going uphill to the Post Classic temples and pyramids of Topoxte Island, Parque Nacional Yaxha Nakum Naranjo, Peten, Guatemala. Arroyo-faisan-Peten


Lots of fruits from vines at Yaxha are edible: Passionflower, Gonolobus, and others.

Lots of fruits from trees at Yaxha are edible: Jacaratia mexicana (wild relative of papaya).

Our 2013-2014 publication on edible and usable native plants of Guatemala lists lots more (but from all over the Mayan areas of Mesoamerica).

We would like to return to PNYNN and make a more complete list of what plants of this part of Peten are edible (so people can improve their health and not suffer from Diabetes 2).

And by making a list of all useful plants, local people can make handicrafts from renewable resources to sell to visitors. All these edible and useful plants can be grown and harvested from outside the park: great way to reforest areas that were previous chopped down.



We would like to find every Passiflora vine, flower, and fruit in PNYNN

We tend to notice passionflower vines along the seasonally inundated edges of rivers, lakes, lagoons, and aguadas. We have found a lot of Passiflora vines along Arroyo Pextexbatun (upstream from Sayaxche, Peten). But the area where we have found the most diversity of species is in the Yaxha Nakum Naranjo national park.

We also find passionflower vines in seasonally inundated savannas in the park. But the edible fruit species was uphill from the edge of the lake, so was a forest species. These are almost impossible to see unless you have binoculars and enough time to literally scan every single tree around you. The Passiflora species along the edge of a river or lake are easy to spot since they are in front of you, at eye level, and there are lots of flowers to attract your attention.

The difficulty of finding a species that prefers high tree canopies may be why the edible species has not previously been documented for the Yaxha park area.

Click to enlarge image

Passiflora of seasonally inundated Savanna East of Nakum, PNYNN. Photo by David Arrivillaga using a Nikon D5, with a Nikon AF-Micro-NIKKOR 200mm f/4D IF-ED Macro lens. Settings: 1/250, f/13, ISO 2000.

Click to enlarge image

Passiflora foetida at Ecolodge El Sombrero, Yaxha. Photo by David Arrivillaga, with a Canon T3i camera, using a 70-300mm f/3.5-5.6 USM lens. Settings: 300mm, 1/320, f/5.6, ISO 400

We have also found passionflower vines growing alongside highways in the Maya Highlands. And in gardens of people’s homes. Just realize that not all are native to Guatemala. So at the Yaxha Nakum Naranjo park we focus on passionflowers that are native to Guatemala. Same species are probably found in neighboring areas as well.

Suggested reading on Passiflora flowers

passionflowers-Torsten Ulmer

Passiflora: Passionflowers of the World

By Torsten Ulmer and John M. MacDougal, with drawings by Bettina Ulmer

Dr MacDougal is a professor at Harris-Stowe State University (in St Louis) and a botanical researcher at the Missouri Botanical Garden (also in St Louis). Since he is in the same city as I live, we occasional meet since he lives not far from my architect brother Daniel Hellmuth.

Torsten Ulmer is a botanist at Universität Essen.

Helpful notes by Professor MacDougal on Passiflora of Yaxha park areas

Since we know the botanical work of Dr MacDougal on passionflowers, whenever we find one, we send him the photos and he kindly responds with helpful information.

Thank you very much for sending the photos. The pink-flowered one is the southernmost record for Passiflora sublanceolata, good find! Supposedly that is hummingbird pollinated. I have never seen it alive, but it sure is pretty.

The other photos from Isla Topoxté are of Passiflora mayarum (Passiflora of the Maya), and these are the first known photos of the fruit! Which is quite important and helpful to understanding this poorly known species. It is related to the maracuja (P. edulis) of commerce, and I think could be helpful in genetic breeding to improve P. edulis. Thanks for letting us know what the fruit looks like!

Any discussion of the passionflowers of Petén should include the reference “Killip, E. P. 1936. Passifloraceae of Mayan Region. In: Botany of the Maya Area: Miscellaneous Papers. XIII. Publ. Carnegie Inst. Wash. 461 (13): 299–328.” It includes Lundell’s 1937 observations but expands the area covered.

Links to our other web pages on Passiflora flowers and fruits

Various species of passionflowers and fruits of Guatemala

Passiflora quadrangularis flowers and fruits

Bibiography on Passiflora of Mesoamerica and uses in the Maya culture

  • FLORES, Jose Salvador and Francisco BAUTISTA
  • 2012
  • Knowledge of the Yucatec Maya in seasonal tropical forest management: The forage plants. Revista Mexicana de Biodiversidad. Vol. 83. Pages 503-518.
  • JOY, P. P.
  • 2010
  • Passion Fruit (Passiflora edulis Sims): Passifloraceae. Pineapple Research Station (Kerala Agricultural University). Kerala, India. 8 pages.
  • KASHANIPOUR, Ryan Amir and R. John MCGEE
  • 2004
  • Northern Lacandon Maya Medicinal Plant Use in the Communities of Lacanja Chan Sayab and Naha’, Chiapas, Mexico.
  • KILLIP, Ellsworth P.
  • 1936
  • Passifloraceae of Mayan Region. In: Botany of the Maya Area: Miscellaneous Papers. XIII. Publ. Carnegie Inst. Wash. 461 (13): 299–328.
  • KILLIP, Ellsworth P.
  • 1938
  • The American Species of Passifloracea. Botanical Series Field Museum of Natural History Vol. XIX. Part 1. USA.

    Pages 47, 200 and 201.
  • LUNDELL, Cyrus L.
  • 1938
  • Plants probably utilized by the Old Empire Maya of Peten and adjacent Lowlands. Papers of the Michigan Academy of Sciences, Arts, and Letters; Vol. 24, pp: 37-56. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
  • MACVEAN, Ana Lucrecia E. and John MACDOUGAL
  • 2012
  • Diversidad, distribución e importancia económica de Passifloraceae de Guatemala. Biodiversidad. Vol. 2. UVG. 33 pages.
  • MEERMAN, J. C.
  • 1996
  • Vegetative Key to the Passionflowers of Belize. Passiflora. Vol. 6. No. 3. Pages 25-28.
  • OTAROLA Rojas, Marco, COLLINS, Sean, CAL, Victor, CaAL, Francisco, KNIGHT, Kevin, ARNASON, John, POVEDA, Luis, SANCHEZ-VINDAS, Pablo and Todd PESEK
  • 2010
  • Sustaining Rainforest Plants, People and Global Health: A Model for Learning from Traditions in Holistic Health Promotion and Community Based Conservation as Implemented by Q’eqchi’ Maya Healers, Maya Mountains, Belize. Sustainability. Vol. 2. Pages 3383-3398.
  • PONCIANO-SAMAYOA, Karla Melina and Juan Pedro LACÁN DE LEÓN
  • 2012
  • Diversidad Genética de Maracuyá en Guatemala Revelada por Marcadores AFLP. Agronomía Mesoamericana Vol. 23. No. 1.Pages 73-80.
  • PORTER-UTLEY, Kristen E.
  • 2003
  • Revision of Passiflora Subgenus Decaloba Supersection Cieca (Passifloraceae). University of Florida. 444 pages.
  • STANDLEY, Paul C. and Louis O. WILLIAMS
  • 1961
  • Flora of Guatemala. Vol. 24. Part VII. No.1. Page 110.
  • ULMER, Torsten and John M. MACDOUGAL
  • 2004
  • Passiflora: Passionflowers of the World. Timberpress, Inc.

    Pages 151 and 208.

Bibliography Part II:
Web pages with helpful material on Passiflora

Photos of Passiflora

Passionflowers of Belize

Description of uses.


First posted September, 2020


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