Sunday, April 21, 2013

A Trip to Tulum

 In the last week of March, Noah and I and friends took a trip to Tulum, Mexico. Here is a quick high light reel of all the things we saw.


Throughout the Yucatan Peninsula there are ancient Mayan cities; discovered, repaired, and preserved. There are impressive temples, solid dwellings, and beautiful relief carvings, which in the last century have been unearthed and restored, with plants kept at bay so that visitors can wander the ancient grounds. The ancient city of Tulum is one of the most beautiful (I was told) as it is situated on the sea- on a rocky bluff on the eastern coast. It is smaller than other sites (at least the restored areas) and the land is well cleared, allowing for long views.


We arrived in the early morning, catching perfect eastern light and avoiding the crowds which arrived en masse as we were leaving.

A view of the jungley forest from on top of the highest temple at the ancient city of Coba. 




As one can imagine, I was pretty enamored with the plants- they were everywhere, gorgeous and mysterious to me.  Here the Bougainvillea is used as a hedging plant along a roadway.

It was everywhere and beautiful.

 A Tillandsia of some sort. This genus of plants hung down from the rafters of most trees, surviving on air!

Cordyline fruitcosa

This was another plant we saw again and again. They grow on such spindly trunks, displaying a top heavy array of glowing magenta leaves.

Often seen lining pathways...


Nerium oleander decorates all the highway meridians, and in March it is in full bloom. Looking to be a hearty, healthy, no-nonsense shrubby plant; I saw it bloom in a range of pastel creams, yellows, oranges and pinks.

Cordia sebestena

This shrub-tree plant was blooming everywhere in brilliant orange.

Coccoloba uvifera

This was perhaps one of my favorite plants that grew right out of the sand and rocks, very close to the sea. We met a man who told us that he called it Marine Grape and as kids they would eat the fruit. It is in the buckwheat family, but it was very shrubby, with leggy branches covered in these clasping waxy leaves.

A little beach succulent with bright blue flowers. Thank you Bobbi Angell for your help identifying many of these tropical plants!


 This is one of the many openings into the elaborate and intricately connected underground river system. Open for snorkelers, we stuck our masks under the surface, giving us a glimpse down the ever-receding cave walls.


These stoic creatures held court in any hot, sunny, dry place.


We didn't visit any formal gardens, but everywhere we went the gardener's hand was hard at work, clipping, trimming, raking, and sifting the sand. It looked like a lot of work to keep the wild plants tame. To my eye, unfamiliar with what was actually native or not, it appeared that they worked with what was growing: encouraging and discouraging different plants. At the same time, there were countless places to buy plants, at many roadside tourist shops, beautiful tropical plants were being sold- but I never saw a plant tag! I was never sure if something was planted or just encouraged, native or non-native; either way, the plants and the gardens seamlessly merged with the landscape. I didn't see any formal garden beds, just a lot of careful and beautiful gardening.


  1. Great journey and wonderful plants. Makes me want to sell up and travel again ☼

  2. Hello Helen, Just catching up on your blogs after weeks of manic work. The trip to Tulum looks very exciting and I echo the sentiments of courseofmirrors. Just getting some sunshine here after coldest spring for 50 years which made Tulum look all the more inviting. Hope you are well. Best wishes, Paul