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

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Reports by FLAAR Mesoamerica
on Flora & Fauna of Parque Nacional Yaxha Nakum Naranjo
Peten, Guatemala, Central America

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The maize and the milpa - National maize day in Guatemala

Posted August, 2019

The maize (Zea mays L.) is the most essential and culturally important crop in Mesoamerica. It’s an annual, monoecious species (with female and male reproductive organs in the same plant but separated) and its pollination is through the wind. His domestication took place in Oaxaca, Mexico, about 9,000 years ago (UNAM, 2017).

For the Mayan culture, the maize is an important element in their lives. In the story of the creation of the universe, in the Popol Vuh, is said that the gods had several attempts creating men until they achieved their purpose by creating men with maize. In addition, in the Mayan culture, Yum Kax is the God of agriculture, who controlled this sacred food (Nájera, 2004).

Maize is an important part of the milpa. Commonly, the maizefield is confused with the milpa. The maizefields are the set of maize, while the milpa comprises an ecosystem, where diverse species of flora and fauna interact, provides environmental services (such as pollination, soil fertility and biological control), contributes to human nutrition and has a cultural connotation (Biodiversidad Mexicana,n.d.).


The milpa system is a historical result of the man-nature relationship, where there are different types of milpa that adapt to the conditions where they are, either at sea level or in the highest mountains; in humid or dry climates; in fertile or low fertile soils (USAID 2017).

Photograph with a Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III, lens 17mm f/0, ISO 400, f 16, speed 1/60.

The word milpa comes from the Nahuatl -milli- and -pan- which means "what is sown in the plot". This system is made up of 3 basic plant species, known as the three sisters:

  • Maize (Zea mays L.)
  • Bean (Phaseolus sp.)
  • Pumpkin or Güicoy (Cucurbita sp).

Although the milpa can be made up of up to 50 different types of species, including tomatoes, chili peppers, amaranth and fruit trees. (Biodiversidad Mexicana, n.d.).


Photograph took with a Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III,lens 17mm f/0,ISO 400, f 16, speed 1/800.

The three sisters form a synergy that favors performance and increases the resilience of the system. These three species provide benefits in various ways:

  • Beans are an atmospheric nitrogen fixing species, which provides nitrogen to the other species within the milpa.
  • Maize serves as a support for beans, since beans are a vine.
  • The pumpkin covers the ground and is responsible for maintaining moisture and limiting weed growth (Ebel & others, 2017).

Due to all its qualities, food, cultural and ecological, as an individual crop and as part of the milpa system, on August 13 commemorates Maize Day in Guatemala, in accordance with decree No. 13-2014 issued by the Congress of the Republic.

Photograph with a Canon EOS 5D,lens 24-105mm f/0,ISO 100, f 11,speed 0.6.

PDF, Articles, Books on Anthurium crassinervium (Jacq.) Schott

First posted, June 2019
Bibliography prepared by Marcella Sarti, FLAAR Mesoamerica



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