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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Blepharidium guatemalense, Irayol blanco

Blepharidium guatemalense is called irayol blanco, especially in the Izabal area. We first found this plant when looking for another tree called irayol which is used to produce a colorant. We asked for irayol and were shown the tree with the white flower, Blepharidium guatemalense. It took a while to find Genipa americana. Ironically both were growing in the same field, adjacent to Frutas del Mundo, where Dwight Carter has his fruit tree gardens.

We do not yet have the Q’eqchi’ Mayan name since our Q’eqchi’ assistants come from the Highlands of Alta Verapaz where irayol does not grow (so they don’t know the local Mayan names).

Flower buttons of irayol. Photographed by Nicholas Hellmuth in Chiquimula. Date: July 2013.

Flower buttons of irayol. Photographed by Nicholas Hellmuth in Chiquimula. Date: July 2013.

When you Google or Bing “irayol” you get 90% of the returns for the villages of this name, one in Guatemala, one in El Salvador. You can’t subtract Guatemala because then you would not get any web sites on the tree irayol in this country!

For returns which are actually on plants, most are on Genipa americana and only a few are on Blepharidium guatemalense. Genipa americana produces a colorant which is used for body painting or temporary

Easy to find on both sides of Lake Izabal, Guatemala

This tree is common around the Polochic area of Izabal. There are many trees near the farm of Frutas del Mundo (south side of the Lake Izabal). I found abundant trees growing along the highway several kilometers west of the Exmibal mineral processing factory (now owned by a Russian company and probably a different company name, but everyone still calls it Exmibal).

Pittier found a speciman along the Saklak River, Secanquim, Alta Verapaz, Guatemala, Central America. Most of Alta Verapaz is accessible nowadays if you have a high axel 4WD pickup truck.

There is an aldea El Irayol in San Juan Tecuaco, Santa Rosa Guatemala, and an El Irayol, Cabanas, El Salvador. We will need to visit each location to learn whether they mean Blepharidium guatemalense or more likely Genipa americana. One web site associates El Irayol with San Juan Tecuaco; another web site associates the aldea with the municipio of Santa Maria Ixhuatan.


This is an attractive flowering tree to grow in your garden

The flowers are fragrant and attractive. The tree is not oversized. In general this would be a good tree for gardens (assuming that the leaves and bark are not poisonous, as reputed around Huehuetenango.


BIBLIOGRAPHY on Blepharidium guatemalense

2009  Catálogo taxonómico de especies de México. 1. In Ca. nat. México. CONABIO,   Mexico City.

What I have is the web site, http://conabio.inaturalist.org/taxa/189835-Blepharidium-guatemalense. Five of the titles in my bibliography here are from Conabio web site. However other than the useful bibliography (albeit rather limited to 5 titles), there is not really any information on Blepharidium guatemalense other than the Yucatec Maya name, sak'yaxte. But… www.cicy.mx lists the Yucatec Maya name as popiste, popistli.

1999  A nomenclator of Mexican and Central American Rubiaceae. Monogr. Syst. Bot.                            Missouri Bot. Gard. 73: 1–177.

PEREZ, A., SOUSA Sanchez, M. HANAN-Alipi, A. M., CHIANG Cabrera, F. and P. TENORIO L.
2005  Vegetación terrestre.. In Biodivers. Tabasco. CONABIO-UNAM, México. 65–110                             pages.

1975  Rubiaceae. In Standley, P.C. and Williams, L.O. (eds), Flora of Guatemala - Part                                   XI. Fieldiana, Bot. 24(11): 1–274.

DAVIDSE, G., SOUSA Sanchez, M., KNAPP, S. and F. CHIANG Cabrera.
2012  Rubiaceae a Verbenaceae. Flora Mesoamer. 4(2).


Web sites with pages on Blepharidium guatemalense

Normally this web site has helpful information, but for this species, Blepharidium guatemalense, the information is weak. But at least it lists Campeche and Yucatan as areas where the tree grows (so beats EOL!).


The EOL page on Blepharidium guatemalense is really sad. The range description for Blepharidium guatemalense is incomplete. Considering who is funding EOL, it is sad to see the lack of up to date information which is so painfully obvious from this site.

I am not a botanist, and I do not have funding from the MacArthur Foundation, but I have 78,000 photographs of flowers and plants of Guatemala merely in the last four years.

Precisely because I am not trained in botany or biology, I look to resources on the Internet where I can learn. There are several web sites in Costa Rica and Mexico  (CONABIO, etc) with abundant and helpful information on the plants of Mesoamerica. I apologize for being blunt, but it would help if EOL could actual produce useful, helpful, realistic knowledge.

EOL and several other comparable sites are not providing a realistic scholarly contribution. All I find is out of date references from sources already known. Even TREES OF GUATEMALA by Parker does better at copying-and-pasting from botanical monographs.

A content farm is a bunch of material copied and pasted from obvious sources. A botanist, hopefully, would like to know more realistic facts, and would hopefully prefer some actual factual field work results.

This tree, Blepharidium guatemalense, irayol blanco, is common on both sides of Lake Izabal in Guatemala, and I would estimate is common in a few other areas of Guatemala (though on endangered list, which is good, since most of Guatemala is being bulldozed for teak plantations, African oil palm, and Brazil rubber trees).

Two days ago I had in front of me more Blepharidium guatemalense, than the EOL site seems to be aware of. And these were so plentiful it was like weeds along the highway: you did not even have to go on a botanical expedition.  The same earlier this year: Blepharidium guatemalense all over the place on the south side of the lake.

Sorry, but if no one writes to point this out, there will be no awareness of the need for a complete overhaul of the goals of this site. Merely pumping more money into the site is not the answer.

Fower of Blepharidium guatemalense has 4 petaled flower. Photographed by Nicholas Hellmuth in Jalapa.

Flower of Blepharidium guatemalense has 4 petaled flower. Photographed by Nicholas Hellmuth in Jalapa. Date: July 2013.

Appendix A

The basic data on Blepharidium guatemalense which is copied-and-pasted everywhere (sometimes with not really full citation).

Standley and Williams, Flora of Guatemala.
Fieldiana, Botany, Vol. 24, Part XI, 1975, pages 17 and 18.

One other species is known, B. mexicanum Standl., described from Palenque, Chiapas (Mexico).

Blepharidium guatemalense Standl. Journ. Wash. Acad. Sci. 8: 59. 1918. Popiste; polo de estricnina; irayol bianco; irayol.

Usually in hilly pine forest, sometimes in savannas, 300 m. or lower; endemic; Petn; Alta Verapaz (type from forest along Rio Saclac below Secanqulm, Pittier 266); Izabal (Quiriqua; Cristina; Santa Cruz); Huehuetenango (Ixcan).

A shrub or small tree, usually 1.5-5.5 m. tall, sometimes a tree of 6-18 m., the branchlets glabrous; stipules ovate-triangular, 2-2.5 cm. long, acuminate, brown, glabrous outside, sericeous within at the base; petioles stout, 2.5-5 cm. long, glabrous; leaf blades oval-oblong to oblanceolate or oblong-obovate, 15-35 cm. long, 4-21 cm. broad, obtuse to acute or abruptly short-acuminate, obtuse to attenuate at the base,
glabrous above, sparsely short-pilose beneath along the costa, short-barbate in the nerve axils; peduncles 6-20 cm. long, glabrous, the stout pedicels 2 cm. long or less; bractlets broadly ovate, 3-4 mm. long, deciduous; calyx glabrous, 4-5 mm. long, 7-8 mm. broad, half as long as the hypanthium, the broad lobes rounded or truncate; corolla tube about 6 cm. long, 4-5 mm. thick, glabrous outside, the oval lobes 1 cm. long; capsule oblong-oval, 1.5-3 cm. long, obtuse at the base and apex.

The shrub is plentiful on the brushy pine hillsides above Quiriagua Hospital. It is probable that B. mexicanum also is to be found in northern Peten. It differs in having smaller flowers, the corolla tube only 4 cm. long, and sparse pubescence over the lower leaf surface. The wood is used for rafters, beams, and supports of lowland houses. In Huehuetenango the leaves and bark are reputed poisonous, hence the name "estricnina" given the tree, but it is improbable that poisonous properties are found in this genus.

Notes from Nicholas: I assume he means Quirigua Hospital, not Quiriagua. Quirigua is the well known Maya archaeological site.

Let us hope that additional field work by experienced botanists can improve the information in this documentation by Standley and Williams. 

Posted, July 2014


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