Ceiba Trees (pronounced 'SAY-ba') are the national tree of Guatemala and were also revered by Mayans as the 'God of the Heavens' because they believed that these huge trees held up the sky. Indeed, I was impressed whenever I saw them in both Guatemala and Belize, and this specimen alongside the path into Tikal National Park was no exception.
With their huge grey trunks of up to 200 ft (70 m) height, and sometimes reaching a diameter of 9 ft (3-m), soaring straight for the heavens without interruption by branches until reaching their spreading crown, these trees cannot be ignored! Of course, if you stick your head into the winds above the jungle canopy, it always helps to have massive buttress roots above the ground level (the same design is used in ancient cathedrals) to keep things propped up!
And just what is that crown doing way up there in the sky? It turns out that the seed pods contain kapok, that marvellous substance that repels water and was used as the filling in life-jackets. In addition, the vast canopy is home to tropical plants like bromeliads which provide a home for frogs. Mammals use the branches as aerial highways and the world's largest eagle, the Harpy, also nests up there where it can easily spot monkeys to prey on. Of course, the tree trunk is so straight that it also makes for excellent canoes. However, I think the reverence for these trees is so great, that they are often left alone - we saw many of them standing solitary in fields while travelling Belize. I continued to be impressed every time, especially when you see them without surrounding distractions! This one was so pinned in by the jungle that no 'distant' shot was possible.
The second photo is a view looking up the trunk to the canopy while the third photo is of a different tree, seen protruding above the jungle while we were atop the Mundo Perdido (Lost World) pyramid in Tikal (with Temple IV, the tallest of them all, in the background).
Howlers hang out all around the Tikal Park. Most likely you'll at least hear them . I couldn't get a raelly good pictures but it was a pretty amazing sight to see them swinging through the trees above the ancient royal palace!
Our guide showed us a plant used locally as a malaria medice . He called it Ajenjo (Artemisia absinthium). It is used in a tea. The use of plants by indigenous Americans dates back more than 10,000 years.
We noticed small trees enclosed with fences around the Tikal area and learned they were planted for future generations of Archaeologists. They indicated a dig had been conducted on the spot and there was nothing there.