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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Biodiversity of habitats of grassland savanna ecosystems of Parque Nacional Laguna del Tigre.

PNLT, Savanna #10, Savanna Video #1 Introduction to the 35 biodiverse ecosystems in far Southeast of PNLT

The three most common kinds of savannas in the southern half of the Reserva de la Biosfera Maya are:

  • traditional grassland savannas (sabanas)
  • sawgrass savannas (cibales)
  • tasiste palm savannas (tasistales)

Once we explore the 70+ savannas of Municipio San Jose (near east side of Municipio San Andres, west of Uaxactun) we will have other categories since many of those 70+ savannas have aguadas, water pools, or lagoons in them. There is no pine in any savanna (that we have yet found) in the Reserva de la Biosfera Maya (RBM). Lots of pine in savannas of southern Peten and Belize. The pine-oak area a few kilometers northeast of the northeast border of Tikal has no aerial photographs available and no satellite image shows any open savanna-like space there.

We are preparing the videos one-by-one. We will post each video when it is finished. Should have at least several posted this week (then we are a thousand kilometers round trip deep in the rain forest in another part of the RBM, Peten, Guatemala, on Phase 3 of the savanna segment of our on-going project of cooperation and coordination with CONAP to study, photograph, research, and prepare reports on the flora, fauna, and biodiverse ecosystems of the RBM). Assuming that the crocodiles and pit vipers don’t get us, we will be back in the office in mid-May so then more videos of the PNLT Savanna #10 series will be posted on this page.


Savanna #13 (the Savanna of Baby Crocodiles) of PNLT has lots of biodiversity:

  • At least four pools of permanent water (at least most of the year); some with Nymphaea ampla white water lilies
  • A dozen baby crocodiles in one of the ponds
  • Four more aguadas that are bone dry until it rains
  • Two oval white areas that may also be seasonal aguadas
  • Grasses and sedges of great variety
  • Possible tasistal thick palm cluster area at far left


Curious, Unexplained Rectangular Patterns of green Grass Shown by soil and/or Linear Borders of Grass or Tree Areas PNLT, Savanna #10, Savanna Video #2

When you enter Savanna #10 you immediately notice that the bright green grass areas have a linear edge on some sides. You see more of this in the savanna in front of the transition zone (from the grassland into the bajo forest vegetation).

Savanna East of Nakum (Parque Nacional Yaxha, Nakum and Naranjo, PNYNN) has rectangular areas (of Thalia plants). This again raises the question of whether these areas were worked by the Classic Maya over a thousand years ago. It is unlikely these lines or rectangular area borders are from modern agriculture because it is unlikely there has been milpa agriculture in these savannas.

Savanna Video #2 shows all these areas. Would help for a soil scientist and botanist and archaeologist to study these areas to ascertain why the vegetation changes so many times in different areas of the savanna. But unless these curiosities are shown to the world, no ecologist will know they exist and where they can easily be studied.

Most of the savannas of southern Peten have been turned into cattle ranches or commercial plantations. So it would help to study the savannas of PNLT, PNYNN, and Municipio San Jose while they still have tapir and crocodiles feeding in them instead of cattle.


Linear areas of the green grass (that is higher than the other grass to the right).

Bajo forest vegetation begins at the top right.

Transition Zone along the north side PNLT, Savanna #10, Savanna Video #3

I use the concept of transition zone to talk about where the savanna vegetation merges with the surrounding bajo forest vegetation. Lots of bushes, vines, and trees. One challenge is to recognize where the bajo forest is encroaching on the tasiste palm areas of the savanna.

On a projection screen in your classroom you and your students can see the biodiversity: the vegetation changes every 60 to 80 meters. I notice the different kinds of plants while hiking through this area. I see even more detail on a 32-inch 4K HMDI monitor (using the RAW file version from the drone).

Lots of tasiste palms around the edge; often quite thick. Lots of bushes and vines; also ferns. Hibiscus (wild hibiscus native to Guatemala) is abundant. Lots of the plants of a savanna are edible.

The bajo forest is always eager to spread into a savanna; but the soil and moisture of a savanna are probably not identical to that of the bajo. Plus the savannas are burned every one, two, or three years. Most bajo forest trees can’t survive such a fire. But tasiste palms and calabash trees survive; grass and sedges also sprout up quickly when rains begin after the fire.

Area of thick clusters of tasiste palm, like a miniature tasistal area PNLT, Savanna #10, Savanna Video #4

Savanna #14 is part tasistal part grassland savanna. Savanna #25 has several open grasslands but has substantial areas of tasistal on the northeast and southeast. Savannas #23, 24 and to the southeast are solid tasistal habitats.

Savanna #10, the subject of this video, has widely scattered tasiste palms in several areas, especially the northern part. But out in the center the tasiste palms get so close together that I would almost consider this area as a potential tasistal habitat.


The ring of tall trees is the surrounding bajo forest. The open soil area is typical of a grassland savanna in a dry month (in this case January 9, 2022). A separate future project needs to measure the elevation of each area; for example, is the grass-less area slightly higher elevation (so all the water runs off to the other areas)?

Wide open grassland area with lots of widely scattered Crescentia cujete, calabash trees, morro PNLT, Savanna #10, Savanna Video #5

Savanna #10 is a traditional (RBM Maya Lowlands) grassland savanna. Crescentia cujete trees are easy to see; tasiste palm clusters are in many areas. Nance is surely present (but not as easy to spot as a calabash tree). There are some oak trees in the southern transitional zone to the bajo. In this part of Peten (and in PNYNN) calabash trees and tasiste palms grow “only” in savannas. They can be planted in a garden anywhere, but out in the wild, so far, I have seen them only in savannas (in Peten; in eastern Izabal tasiste palms grow primarily along shores of rivers or lagoons with brackish water: no savannas here and no tasistal areas; clumps of tasiste palms are never massive whatsoever in the Municipio de Livingston).

This short video shows where most of the calabash trees can be seen in Savanna #10.


Open grassland as far as you can see (with bajo forest on the far horizon). Widely scattered tasiste palm and several Crescentia cujete, calabash trees.

Circular areas of green grass and/or soil, mostly at the center towards the east PNLT, Savanna #10, Savanna Video #6

Rectangular and linear aspects of the savanna are in Video #2. Most are on the west end and middle of the northern area of the savanna. The present Video #6 shows circular areas of grass or soil that are a different color than the surrounding savanna. I show these so that archaeologists and soil scientists can discuss whether any of these patterns are a result of the Classic Maya utilizing this savanna for over a thousand years.


Two areas diagonally separated each have different size and color but both are obvious “islands” in the grassland savanna. Why are these areas geometrically shaped and why are they a different color? Is this Mother Nature or is this Maya having used each part of the savanna for different purposes for thousands of years?

There are wide or long areas of consistent vegetation color but if you look more closely you see notable variations in the color of the soil and/or color of the vegetation (meaning different species are in that area).

There are no introduced plants here. This area is not being farmed. This savanna is inside the Parque Nacional Laguna del Tigre (PNLT), at the far southeast part. No hotel nearby to overnight; no way to drive even close to this savanna. Camp in tents and hike through the curiously undulating surface of kilometers of bajo forest to the savannas. Savanna #11 is in the far middle. The limestone cliffs of the Penon de Buena vista is at the far right end of this aerial photograph.

Connecting area from Savanna #10 into adjacent Savanna #11 PNLT, Savanna #10, Savanna Video #7

Savanna #10 has a corridor to adjacent Savanna #11. Many other savannas in PNLT are near an adjacent savanna. In theory you could consider #10 and #11 a single savanna but I prefer to name them separately. Otherwise a report on both together would be too many pages.

At the north part of the corridor, there is a grass area with a straight diagonal border (where trees of the bajo border the grassland savanna). Is this a natural straight border or was there a modification of this part of the savanna by the Classic Maya? I discuss this topic in Video #2 and Video #6.


Corridor between east end of Savanna #10 (bottom right) and southeast part of Savanna #11 (above). Lots of savannas have connection with nearby savannas. Other savannas are completely isolated. The trees on both sides of the corridor and on north side of the entire Savanna #11 are trees of the bajo forest. No palo de tinto trees here. But the area around all the savannas of the southeast part of Parque Nacional Laguna del Tigre are all bajo forests (of various kinds: trees and/or shrubs and entwined thorny vines). Surely other classifications could be used, but a classification made for the Tikal-Yaxha-El Mirador areas may not be pertinent to the bajos here to the southwest part of the Reserva de la Biosfera Maya (RBM).

These videos may be used in your classroom presentations

No permission is required; simply use the videos in your classroom presentations or in your reading assignments. There are other FLAAR Reports on this White Water Lily Savanna (official name is Savanna #10). Both PDFs and videos of FLAAR can be used in classroom presentations with no permission required. We also have lecture topics available “in-person” via Zoom by Nicholas Hellmuth. Or in-person with an airplane ticket (nowadays ZOOM or Google Meet is less expensive than airfare, hotel and meals).

Initial Bibliography on savannas:

So far, no photographic focus on the biodiversity: lists, yes; discussion, yes; maps, yes. But not many aerial videos of savannas of Peten or Belize.

3:20, 1. Overview of the Darwin Savanna Project.
There are at least six videos from this project, by profession teams.

4:10, 3. How the new Savanna mapping is being used in Belize.
They have impressive experience and technology (so clearly are adequately funded). This kind of mapping would be not only helpful but essential for savannas of Peten.

9:29, Belize: Fire Leadership for Protected Areas Crucial video. Note: Belize savannas are mostly (but not always) associated with pine. None of these pine savannas are in PNLT nor in PNYNN.

41 seconds, Caribbean Pine Savanna, video from a park ranger observation tower. Swasey-Bladen Forest Reserve.

Surely, somewhere, there must be videos that show a complete savanna of Belize inside out. But so far, there are dozens of excellent REA written reports and videos of how savannas can be better mapped, but no video of an actual savanna from one end to the other for Belize (I Googled savannas of Belize).

6:56, Spider Lily Savanna at Parque Nacional Laguna del Tigre, San Andrés, Petén, Reserva de Biosfera Maya Bi-lingual, English and Spanish. Dr Nicholas Hellmuth emotionally reacts to seeing this impressive savanna of such biodiversity.

Video of lecture by Dr. Richard Hansen discussing El Mirador. Mentions the savannas of millions of years ago that converted to rain forest. We have not yet noticed any savannas around El Mirador; however the bajos of the Cuenca de El Mirador are well known

Has 9 segments on savannas of “South America”. Includes Mexico (I did not know that Mexico is in South America!). As typical, Guatemalan savannas are not mentioned (actually not Belize either, at least not in the Table of Contents).


First posted May 1, 2022.
Written by Dr Nicholas Hellmuth


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