The lake itself fills the mouth of an immense caldera, or volcanic opening, that may be more than 304m (1,000 ft) deep. The caldera was formed in a massive eruption 84,000 years ago. Surrounding the lake are the steep cliff walls of the caldera's rim, and a ring of newer volcanos . Volcan Atitlan erupted more than a dozen times between 1469 and 1853, and is considered still active. Also ringing the lake are a necklace of villages and towns occupied by Maya living a traditional lifestyle. Although the map shows a road connecting the towns around the circumference of the lake, many of these communities can only be reached by water, or by steep foot trails leading down from the road above. To locate Lake Atitlan in Guatemala, click here.
Lake Atitlan's weather was very predictable. In the morning a bright sun would shine down from a clear blue of sky. By mid-afternoon, clouds would sweep in, with the sun lighting them up dramatically, as you can see above.
Hippeastrum is Greek for "horseman's star", or "knight's star" probably referring to the medieval weapon the flower resembles. The Dutch were the first commerical growers, importing several species from Mexico and South America. Hippeastrum now grows on most continents of the world.
Saint Francis (1181 AD - 1226 AD) is the patron saint of animals and is often shown surrounded by them. His actual name was Giovanni, but he picked up the nickname Francis because his father, an Italian, had a great love of France. Saint Francis started as a worldly young soldier, but had a vision during one of his campaigns that led him to renounce wealth and ultimately to become head of a new religious order. The Franciscan Order was the first to follow the conquistadors into the New World, arriving in Guatemala in 1530. They established missions and churches all across the new Spanish territory.
Fuchsia has almost 110 recognized speciels, most native to South America, growing as far south as Tierra del Fuego.
Callistemon occur in Australia, in the east and southeast. The plant likes damp, cool conditions like those found along stream beds. However, it is very hardy and can be found in a variety of environments. The flowers of the Callistemon citrinus seen above appear in summer and autumn.
Topiary is the art of creating living sculptures. Live plants are trained to grow in particular shapes, sometimes abstract (as seen above), sometimes in the shape of animals. The word topiary comes from the Latin word for landscape gardener: topiarius.
Amaranth is both an ornamental and a food plant, and has 3 sub-genera and 70 species. In Africa, it is grown as a food supplement and food experts see it as a way local communities can gain self-sufficiency. Amaranth can be used as a "pseudo-grain" by the gluten-intolerant, because the plant is not a member of the grass family and contains no gluten. It is presently cultivated for food on a small scale in Guatemala.
Alstroemeria genus, commonly known as Peruvian lily, or Lily of the Incas, has 120 species. Almost all of these come from Chile or Brazil. The Alstroemeria are all long-lived perennials except for one species native to the Atacama Desert in Chile. The plant's seeds were first collected by a Swedish baron named Claus von Alstroemer in 1753 on a trip to South America. The famous Carolus Linnaeus, who created the whole system of Latin names for plants and animals, named the plant after his friend Alstroemer.
white lily with purity, modesty, and sweetness.
This completes Part 4 of my Guatemala series. Next time, I'll show you around Lake Atitlan itself. I always appreciate feedback, and if you'd like to comment, please do so in the Comments section below, or email me directly.
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Hasta luego, Jim