Smilax

Smilax

An ethnobotanical with interesting properties Smilax is a crucial ingredient in Mayan ethnobotanical recipes, both from Guatemala and Mexico. However, it is notable that, in general, Mayanists know very little about this seemingly bizarre plant. I have studied plants of the Maya since the 1970s, and I must admit I never heard of this plant until four years ago. And […]

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It Really is Worth it

The amazing view from El Mirador

Turquoise pools and mysterious caves are just two reasons why Semuc Champey is a must-visit destination. When traveling, you often find yourself evaluating the many destinations, and here in Guatemala the variety is astounding. One of the must-visit attractions is Semuc Champey. You may have seen pictures of the shimmering turquoise pools, cascading through the jungle. The water is so […]

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Vultures in the Mayan World

Black vultures at Río de la Pasión (Dr. Nicholas M. Hellmuth)

The American black vulture, buzzard or black-headed vulture (Coragyps atratus) is the only species of the genera Coragyps. It is a scavenger, but also eats eggs and newborn animals. These birds find their food using their keen eyesight or by following other vultures that have a good sense of smell.

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Mmm… Macadamia Pancakes

Macadamia pancakes with macadamia butter and fresh blueberry jam

A trip to the Valhalla Macadamia Farm Just minutes from La Antigua Guatemala is an amazing agricultural project, quietly doing a load of good for the planet and indigenous communities in Guatemala. Situated just outside of San Miguel Dueñas, is the Valhalla Macadamia Farm. The farm produces wonderful organic macadamia nuts, makes/produces an exceptional line of skin care products, serves […]

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Eating an Inflorescence

Flowers in the Mayan Diet

Flowers in the Mayan Diet While in a hotel in Cobán, Alta Verapaz, Guatemala, we were photographing a beautiful peace lily flower, of the Spathiphyllum genus. Our Q’eqchi’ translator immediately told us that this flower is edible. Our photo assistant also said that his family incorporated these flowers in their meals. He is from the Guatemala-Mexico border area in the […]

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Flowers from the Árbol del Hermano Pedro

This species has been appreciated in Mesoamerica since pre-Hispanic times for its unique beauty and medicinal properties. Tea from the dried flowers are attributed various medicinal properties, mainly as a tranquilizer, analgesic and to control high blood pressure and heart disease. Scientists are investigating its antidepressant effect.

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Edible Flowers in the Mayan Diet

The focus this month is on an edible flower from the tree referred to as muc in the Q’eqchi’ language; orejuela in local Spanish of Guatemala. The scientific name is Cymbopetalum penduliflorum (Donal) Bail. Family: Annonaceae. Flowers played a major role in Mayan culture, as sacred flowers, as perfume, as seasoning, as food and as medicine. The flower from the […]

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Ecosystems of the Mayan Rain Forest

An incredible diversity of life exists in the Mayan Rain Forest, the biological crossroads of the Americas For centuries the land of the Mayan rain forest has been of particular interest to biologists because of its unique location. It is at the crossroads of two of Earth’s major life zones: the Nearctic Realm (North America) and the Neotropical Realm (South […]

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Botanics Gardens

Discover an oasis of tranquillity at El Jardín Botánico Hidden alongside one of the busiest roads in Guatemala City lies El Jardín Botánico—an oasis of tranquillity on the chaotic Avenida de la Reforma in zone 10. Ever since it opened in 1922, the site has been a protected landmark displaying over 650 species of both native and exotic flora. The […]

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The Road To Nakum

The plan was to rendezvous with friends at Yaxhá Lagoon then drive north to the remote site of Nakum. I met up with Belizean Alfonso Galvez and American biologist Harry Drexler for breakfast by the shore of magnificent Yaxhá. A bit of camp-stove magic, and I was serving up steaming plates of black beans, fried mol a’catch (turkey eggs) and […]

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Youth Leadership

Seres works with young people to help instill environmental awareness and create future leaders In the small pueblo of Chimaltenango a group of young people from across Guatemala and neighboring El Salvador gathers for a four-day youth leadership congress, organized by the NGO SERES. In a scene that could be mistaken for an acrobatics class, they discuss how in teams […]

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Yellow Beard and other slithering surprises!

On a recent expedition to the El Triunfo Biosphere Reserve, one of the region’s premier protected areas, located just over the border in Chiapas, Mexico, I was walking up a remote river valley when I saw a slight movement on the path. As I approached I made out the form of a large serpent lying, perhaps sunning, squarely in my […]

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Palm Weavers

by Hilary Kilpatric “I enjoy working with palm because it is found locally and it is the traditional material used by the people here. Plus using palm for artisan goods does not damage the environment,” said Catarina Tamup de Leon, leader of the Palm Weavers, when asked about why she loves her work. The Palm Weavers group is located in […]

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Islands in the Sky

Lake Tziscao and the Islands in the Sky The most endangered of Earth’s forests are without question tropical cloud forests, which make up little more than one percent of the planet’s arboreal habitats. Visionary conservationists like Guatemala’s Professor Mario Dary Rivera and Miguel Álvarez del Toro of Chiapas had the foresight to secure some of these pristine environments before chainsaws […]

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The Bird-bound, Labyrinthine, “No Name Gardens” of Atitlán

Guatemala’s exquisite botanical colony plays push and shove with weed and water — and sometimes with people Everyone knows that cacti need little water. But in Guatemala’s most spectacular garden, the cacti are more watered than other plants. This is hardly the fault of the gardeners. They are not the ones doing the watering. This botanical garden abuts another Central […]

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Unicorn Hunting

A photographic quest to the upper cloud forest on Atitlán Volcano’s southern flank in search of the rare and elusive

A photographic quest to the upper cloud forest on Atitlán Volcano’s southern flank in search of the rare and elusive Oreophasis derbianus I reached for my cell phone to turn off the alarm: 12:30 a.m., time to get started. I lit the stove and put some water on for coffee. A few minutes later there was a knock on my […]

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Flowers in Mayan Art

Flowers are part of Mayan decoration, outfits and rituals. Kings wear flowers in the headdress. In addition to being purely decorative, flowers have deep meaning in Mayan religion and folklore. Especially between the 3rd and 9th century AD, perhaps a dozen different flower species are depicted in Classic Mayan murals and in art on funerary ceramics. For many years I […]

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Trogon Hunting in the Cucurucho Cloud Forest

Birdwatching and hiking at El Pilar, Antigua’s little-known nature reserve written by Kate Witt photos: Thor Janson We hop out of the 4×4 truck to finish our ascent, cool in the luscious cover of the mountain vegetation until we reach the peak, a refreshing 10-minute hike. The view was incredible—I was astounded to see Lake Amatitlán with a spread of […]

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