Flowers of the Mayan homegarden

Recognize the Flowers of the Mayan homegarden with Juan P. Pinzón y Juan José Ancona Aragón.

The Mayan homegarden is an agroecosystem of pre-Hispanic origin that has remained to this day, using various species, agricultural practices, instruments and knowledge of native cultures and its mixture with the Hispanic heritage. The house is immersed in it, along with the kitchen, laundry room, spaces for animals, fruit trees, vegetables and ornamental plants.

Plants are the main biological component of the Mayan homegarden, among which we can find fruit trees, vegetables, medicinal, firewood, forage, living fences and ornamentals. The latter stand out for their colorful flowers or large leaves and are commonly located in front and on the sides of the house, in order to embellish the home and provide enjoyment for family members and people who pass by.

Área de plantas ornamentales en un huerto familiar, Dzoncauich, Yucatán Area with ornamental plants in a homegarden, Dzoncauich, Yucatán

Fotografía / Photography: Juan J. Ancona

Plants are the main biological component of the Mayan homegarden.

According to studies by Dr. Salvador Flores and collaborators from the Autonomous University of Yucatán, in the Mayan homegardens we can find dozens of ornamental plants from various botanical families, both native and exotic, some of which are common in gardens throughout the world, such as roses, desert flowers, marigolds and bougainvilleas, as well as others that are more particular to our region.

Next, we will talk about some of the species that we can find most frequently in the Mayan homegardens of the Yucatan Peninsula, among which the following stand out:

Plumed cockscomb (Celosia argentea var. cristata)

Cresta de gallo (Celosia argentea var. cristata)
Plumed cockscomb (Celosia argentea var. cristata)

Fotografía / Photography:
Reaperman, CC BY-SA 4.0)

Known as xtees in the Mayan language, it is a truly beautiful plant that can be just over 1 m in height. The flower is very striking for its red, purple and orange colors with a velvet texture. This flower is highly appreciated culturally because it is used during the Day of the Dead season as a main component on the altars of the faithful departed. It is a domesticated plant and cultivated throughout the world, although its geographical origin is not clear.

Frangipani (Plumeria rubra).

Flor de mayo (Plumeria rubra), mostrando
variedad en los colores de sus pétalos
Frangipani (Plumeria rubra), showing
variation in the colors of its petals

Fotografía / Photography:
Wolfblitz2, CC BY-NC-ND 3.0

This species is a tree with very brittle wood, which can reach up to 5 m in height. The flowers vary in color, and can be white, cream, yellow, pink, red, or a combination of these colors. In addition, they produce a sweet and pleasant fragrance. An important fact is that the plants with white flowers are the only ones found growing in the Yucatan Peninsula as natives. The other colors are a consequence of human selection, that is, they show some degree of domestication.


Crinum erubescens

Fotografía / Photography: Juan P. Pinzón

These include a wide variety of plants that reproduce by bulb, which usually display very glamorous flowers. In the Mayan homegardens we can find several species, such as the fairy lilies, the spider lily, the Japan lily, etc. Here we include a couple of examples, such as the Barbados lily (Hippeastrum puniceum), native to Central and South America, which has large red-orange flowers and a South American Swamp Crinum Lily (Crinum erubescens), native to the peninsula, with flowers that have white ribbon-shaped petals and long violet stamens.

Lady of the Night (Brunfelsia americana)

Brunfelsia nitida

Fotografía / Photography:
S. Zona, CC BY-NC 2.0

Native to the Antilles, this plant is highly appreciated for the distinctive fragrance that its flowers produce at night. It is a shrub up to three meters high, whose flowers are cream-colored, tube-shaped which opens at the upper part forming five rounded lobes. Some other species are known by the same common name, although this one is more common in our region.

Eleven o’clock (Portulaca spp.).

Varios especies de mañanitas
Several species of Eleven O’Clock

Fotografía / Photography:
Juan J. Ancona y Juan P. Pinzón

These plants have small, fleshy leaves, and grow prostrate on the ground. Its flowers can be red, magenta, white, yellow or even bicolor. As its name suggests, the flowers open in the morning and close in the evening. In the Yucatan Peninsula there are four native species and others that are introduced from other parts of Mexico. One of the natives, the purslane (P. oleracea), is edible, while the remaining species are ornamental. It is common to find this type of plants in pots adorning the “albarradas”.



Recommended references:

Arellano Rodríguez, Alberto, José Salvador Flores Guido, Juan Tun Garrido y María Mercedes Cruz Bojórquez. Nomenclatura, forma de vida, uso, manejo y distribución de las especies vegetales de la península de Yucatán. Mérida, Yucatán: UADY-CONACYT, 2003.

Flores Guido, José Salvador. Huertos familiares de la Península de Yucatán. Mérida, Yucatán: UADY-CONACYT, 2012.

Flores Guido, José Salvador. Los huertos familiares en Mesoamérica. Mérida, Yucatán: UADY-CONACYT, 2012.

Sosa, Victoria y José Salvador Flores Guido. Flora Ornamental de Mérida. Mérida, Yucatán: Ayuntamiento de Mérida, 2014.

World Flora Online,