Start of Lakin Trail
Starting at the Lakin Trail, you will immediately notice the small silver tags that hang from many of the trees and plants near the path. Here the forest is a garden. The El Pilar Program botanists have labeled valuable and useful plants with local, Latin, and Mayan names wherever possible. The program, along with Amigos de El Pilar and bush-masters of the area, have worked with ecologists from Grinnell College, University of Texas, Stanford University, as well as New York Botanical Garden and the Ix Chel Tropical Research Center to understand the nature of this forest.
Plant Tags
We recognize that the Maya forest is dominated by plants with household uses such as food, utensils, ornaments, shelter, construction, condiments, medicine, clothing, baskets, toys, tanning, poison, and more. You name it and a local forest-gardener can find it. Recent research at El Pilar has demonstrated that more than 90 percent of the dominant plants in this forest have economic importance. The Maya made this forest their garden.
As you emerge from the higher forest into a more open area, you encounter a fork in the path at the sign "Maya forest-garden." This is where we are developing a model of the traditional indigenous Maya garden. We have been conducting archaeological and agricultural studies here aimed at reviving an example of Maya domestic life where houses were surrounded by managed forest-gardens.
Maya Forest Garden
The trail forks. Left takes you through the managed forest-garden, first established in 1996. The traditional forest-garden incorporates natural regenerated features of the plant and animal communities. The ecology of the forest is the strength of the garden. You will find the beautiful black orchid, nitrogen-fixing guanacaste tree, fruitful guava, versatile allspice, nourishing jicama, and decorative heliconia. Within this garden are the pollinators, the decomposers, the phosphate generators, and the soil regenerators.
Tzunu'un Forest Garden Trail Guide
This is just a sample of the education you can get by walking with your guide, a local forest-gardener, or the new Tzunu'un Forest-Garden Trail Guide written especially for this place.