Introduction to Piper species in Mesoamerica, especially in Guatemala


Piper species are native to much of the Americas. But these piper species are not household black pepper. What is in our kitchen and dining room pepper shakers is not native to either the Aztec or Maya.


Piper is a genus of the family family Piperaceae.


In the Yaxchilan nature park (Chiapas, Mexico, physically on the border with El Peten, Guatemala), there are 13 species of Piper (Meave et al.).


Bibliography of Piper plant species in Mesoamerica


Half the Internet search engine returns for Piper simply repeat what Wikipedia or someone else says. We try to provide more realistic and more diversified information with the help of an introductory bibliography. Even the web site of Princeton University states that it copies directly from Wikipedia (I would have expected a bit better from Princeton).

If you know an article or monograph which we have not yet noticed, please send us the PDF at [email protected]. We need the actual MS Word or PDF in order to read the article.

Piper plant, taken with a Nikon D800E on May 2013

Piper plant, taken with a Nikon D800E on May 2013

  • 2000
  • Los recursos vegetales aromáticos en Latinoamérica. Su aprovechamiento industrial para la producción de aromas y sabores. EUNLP. 140pp.
  • 1989
  • Taxonomic studies in the Piperaceae-I. The pedicellate pipers of Mexico and Central America (Piper subgen. Arctottonia) J. Arnold Arbor. 70(1): 1-55.
  • CAL, Victor et al.

  • 2009
  • The Itzama project: sustainable indigenous development based on the ethnobotanical garden and traditional medicine concept. IDRC, University of Ottawa.
  • POPONOE, William
  • 1920
  • The Tree Dahlia of Guatemala. Journal of Heredity, Vol. 11, Issue 6, pp. 265-268.
  • 2001
  • Piperaceae Vol II. Missouri Botanical Garden. USA.
  • CHAZDON, R. L. and FIELD, C. B.
  • 1987
  • Determinants of photosynthetic capacity in six rainforest Piper species. Oecologia 73: 222-230..
  • 2001
  • Trabajo de graduaci�n realizado en la zona de influencia del Parque Nacional Lagua Lachu�, subcuenca del r�o Salinas (�rea de captaci�n). Cob�n, Alta Verapaz.
  • 2011
  • Chemical diversity of essential oils of 15 piper species from Guatemala. ISHS. Acta Hortucultura 964: International Symposium on Medicinal and Aromatic Plants and History of Mayan ethnopharcology. International Society for Horticultural Science.
  • DIAZ, J. L.
  • 1975
  • Uso de las plantas medicinales de M�xico, Monograf�as Cient�ficas II. 1era. Ed. M�xico; IMPELAN. 2930 pp.
  • FION, M. A.
  • 2003
  • Recopilaci�n de plantas medicinales, Validadas por los estudiantes, asesorados en el Departamento de Farmacolog�a y fisiolog�a. (tesis ad gradum, Facultad de Ciencias Qu�micas y Farmacia, USAC). 112 pp.
  • DIEMONT, Stewart A. W. and Jay F. MARTIN
  • 2009
  • Lacandon Maya ecosystem management: sustainable design for subsistence and environmental restoration. Ecological Applications, 19(1), 2009, pp. 254�266.
  • DYER, Lee A and Apama D. N. PALMER (editors)
  • 2004
  • Piper: a model genus for studies of phytochemistry, ecology, and evolution. Springer. 216 pages (and thus a bit overpriced at $155 or even Amazon price at $123).
  • FRANCIS, John K.
  • 2001
  • Piper amalago. Research Forester, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, International Institute of Tropical Forestry, Jard�n Bot�nico Sur. San Juan PR 00926-1119, in cooperation with the University of Puerto Rico, R�o Piedras, PR 00936-4984
  • GARCIA de MIGUEL, Jesus
  • 2000
  • Etnobotanica Maya: Origen y evoluci�n de los huertos familiares de la Pen�nsula de Yucat�n, M�xico. UNIVERSIDAD de Cordoba Escuela Tecnica Superior de ingenieros agr�nomos y de montes. ISEC. Universidad Rural
  • JARAMILLO, M. Alejandra and Paul S. MANOS
  • 2001
  • Phylogeny and patterns of floral diversity in the genus Piper (Piperaceae). American Journal of Botany April 2001 vol. 88 no. 4 706-716.

    This has one of the better bibliographies for Piper, worldwide but also for the Americas.
  • KERMATH, Brian M., BENNETT, Bradley C., and Lydia M. PULSIPHER
  • n.d.
  • Food Plants in the Americas: A Comprehensive Survey. Manuscript. 1258 pp. Available on-line. A whopping 1258 pages long. Lists Piper species on his page 586.
  • LIOGIER, H. A.
  • 1990
  • Plantas medicinales de Puerto Rico y del Caribe. Iberoamericana de Ediciones, Inc., R�o Piedras, PR. 566 pages.
  • LITTLE, E. L., Jr., WOODBURY, R. O.; and F. H. WADSWORTH
  • 1974
  • Trees of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Vol. 2. Agriculture Handbook 449. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Washington, DC. 1,024 pp.
  • M. A. MANOS and Paul S. MANOS
  • 2001
  • Phylogeny and patterns of floral diversity in the genus Piper (Piperaceae) Amer. J. Bot. 88(4): 706-716.
  • MARTINEZ, Jose Vicente
  • 2009
  • Caracterizaci�n morfol�gica, ecol�gica, gen�tica y qu�mica de 3 especies de Piper (Piper jacquemontianum, Piper donnell smithii y Piper oradendron)on fines de conservaci�n y mejoramiento para su aprovechamiento como nuevos recursos arom�ticos y/o medicinales en Guatemala. Proyecto FODECYT. Guatemala.
  • TEBBS, M. C.
  • 1989
  • Revision of Piper (Piperaceae) in the New World 1. Review of characters and taxonomy of Piper section Macrostachys Bull. Brit. Mus. (Nat. Hist.), Bot. 19: 117-158;
  • TEBBS, M. C
  • 1990
  • Revision of Piper (Piperaceae) in the New World 2. The taxonomy of Piper section Churumayu. Bull. Brit. Mus. (Nat. Hist.), Bot. 20(2): 193-236;
  • TEBBS, M. C.
  • 1992
  • New species of Piper (Piperaceae) from Central America Bull. Brit. Mus. (Nat. Hist.), Bot. 22(2): 157-158;
  • TEBBS, M. C.
  • 1993
  • Revision of Piper (Piperaceae) in the New World 3. The taxonomy of Piper sections Lepianthes and Radula Bull. Nat. Hist. Mus. Lond. (Bot.) 23(1): 1-50; Jaramillo,
  • WAIZEL-Haiat, Salomon, WAIZEL-Bucay, Jose, MAGANA-Serrano, Jose Antonio, CAMPOS-Bedoya, Patricia and Jose Eduardo SAN ESTEBAN-Sosa
  • 2012
  • Cacao y chocolate: seducci�n y terap�utica. Anales M�dicos, Vol. 57, N�m. 3, Jul. - Sep. 2012, pp. 236-245
  • WILSON, Michael Robert
  • 1972
  • A Highland Maya People and their Habitat: The Natural History, Demography and Economy of the K�ekchi�. PhD dissertation, Dept of Geography, University of Oregon. 475 pages. Despite this being a complete Kekchi ethnobotanical study, it is weak in numbers of Piper species: lists only three (362). Armando Caceres says there are over 100 species in Guatemala; I would estimate dozens or even scores would be in K�ekchi� areas.
  • ZARGER, Rebecca Kristyn
  • 2002
  • Children�s Ethnoecological Knowledge: Situated Learning and the Cultural Transmission of Subsistence Knowledge and Skills among Q�eqchi Maya. PhD dissertation, University of Georgia. 290 pp.

    Lists only one single Piper species, P. Auritum. Notable that Piper are not well listed for Guatemala by North American scholars doing their PhD in the Maya area.


Good web sites for Piper species
Notes and good photos by botanist Jim Conrad on Piper alalago in Yucatan.

Very informative discussion of medicinal benefits of Piper aduncum L. synonym Piper angustifolia.
Usos medicinales de la hoja santa o Piper auritum Kunth. Has some nice photos and helpful text.


We show a few Piper species on our but it will be a long time before we have a complete list of all hundred species, and even longer before we can learn to distinguish which species is which. “A hundred” is quite a lot.


Most recently updated July 2014.
First posted November, 2013