What a fun trip! Part vacation, part fieldwork - we got to visit a lot of really cool sites in central and western Guatemala, as well as Chiapas and Oaxaca, Mexico. My principal goals here were to track down some Polystichum and an undescribed species of Phlegmariurus, but ended up with all sorts of good plants.
My girlfriend Christina and I flew into Guatemala City, and immediately headed north to the city of Coban. A small city with a pleasant atmosphere, Coban feels a world apart from the chaos of Guate. I found some interesting ferns in a small park at the limits of the city, but we only spent a day there before heading east to the karst landscape around Lanquín, which is world-known for Semuc Champey, a spectacular series of aquamarine pools over exposed limestone. Turns out, the botany in the area is really great too: Lanquín is situated in a dry valley, but the area near the Lanquín River is quite tolerable and harbors a lot of calciphile ferns - Asplenium trichomanes-dentatum, Anemia speciosa, and Tectaria heracleifolia were just a few. The pools are gorgeous, too. Even though this is on the gringo trail, the area isn't too overrun.
Later, we spent a few days near Lake Atitlán, which is situated in the heart of the Mayan highlands. The lake is beautiful (if contaminated) but the area's natural beauty has led to some of the towns surrounding the lake to lose some authenticity to large crowds of Americans and Europeans on yoga and reiki retreats. Even so, many of the smaller towns have kept their charm, and the botany in the surrounding volcanos is very good. On previous trips, I summited Volcán Atitlán and Volcán San Pedro; this trip, we opted to go up San Pedro another time. The lower parts of the trail pass through plots of coffee, but further up, the forest is protected and quite diverse. Chiranthodendron pentadactylon is common here - the large red claw-like flowers cover the trail in some places. There are good ferns too: Polystichum fournieri, P. rachichlaena, P. distans, Pleopeltis platylepis, and Ctenitis equestris, to name a few.
We took a chicken bus to the border and eventually made it through customs in Tapachula, Chiapas. After a short time in the area (great ruins nearby) we started to make our way towards Oaxaca. Christina was principally interested in the city's art scene (it's phenomenal); I was more looking forward to the cuisine (also phenomenal) and botany (very phenomenal). We stayed for several days, and I got the chance to collect a lot of nice cheilanthoid ferns in the hillsides surrounding the city. As usual, Oaxaca was a great time.
Transit in Lanquin.
Anemia speciosa, an irridescent species!
Dinner is served
Phlegmariurus dichotomus for sale in a market in Coban. I bought it.