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El Charco Del Ingenio Botanical Garden Newsletter

September, 2009 - Volume IV, No. 9

OUR MISSION: To protect and preserve our natural heritage and help build an environmental culture while developing a Botanical Garden dedicated to Mexican flora and providing an oasis of peace and tranquility for all.

Please tell your friends and prospective members/supporters how to access the newsletter and help broaden the base of support for the Botanical Garden.

Garden Lecture Series: Tree Identification Walk - Monday, Sept 14th

Visit to CEDESA (Centro de Desarrollo Agropecuario), A.C. - Wednesday, Sept 30

TEMASCAL - Friday, September 4 and Sunday September 13

Full Moon Ceremony - Friday, September 4

Yoga at El Charco - Mondays and Wednesdays

Bird Walks - First and Third Wednesday of the month

Guided Tours - Tuesdays and Thursdays


Water Treatment Plant Functional At Last

After months and months of few advances and some work suspensions, this important work for cleaning Parque Landeta’s water has finally entered the trial phase.  Based on the technology of a submerged bed constructed wetland, the proposal for this water treatment plant came about eight years ago as an idea of Val Nickerson, then President of Audubon, which turned into an initiative of various non-profits in the city which saw the need to clean a polluted discharge of 5 liters/second which threatened the Presa de las Colonias (between El Charco and Parque Landeta).  The initiative was taken by the Water Commission of Guanajuato (CEAG) starting in 2006.  However, a series of mistakes by the construction company and some bureaucratic problems caused the work to be interrupted on several occasions. Finally, this month, the CEAG has started testing the plant’s operations and will formally hand it over to the City in the near future.

The treatment plant works by gravity and three phases: the water first goes through an anaerobic reactor which has bacteria; moves through a 2000 m2 artificial wetland where the water flows underground and is oxygenated by a quantity of plants, which both nourishes and absorbs contaminents; the water meanders through a 600 meter path, bordered by abundant plants where it receives a final cleansing before emptying into the Presa de las Colonias.

water treatment plant

Besides being responsible for the idea and cost of this third phase of treatment, the Botanical Garden completed last month some finishing touches for the full operation of this system. One was the building of compact clay banks on the perimeter to seal the area and ensure water doesn’t leak out.  Another was the planting throughout the artificial wetland area of cattails and canna lilies, the sale of which should cover the cost of operations.  We have also come to an agreement with UNAM for the shared management of the treatment plant in the future for educational and demonstration purposes.

    We believe we will accomplish the goals of this work:
    • improvement of the water quality of the Presa de las Colonias,
    • increase the water levels of the Presa on a permanent basis, even during the dry months,
    • better development of wildlife in the area, and
    • promotion of the constructed wetland technology for treating water as an appropriate, efficient and low cost option.



    Bristish Support for Micropropagation Project


    Last month the British Cactus and Succulent Society, BCSS, decidedto financially assist with a project which started in 2008 with an agreement between El Charco del Ingenio, the UNAH (Agrarian University of Havana) and the Technological Institute in Irapuato (ITESI) concerning the propagation in vitro of three endangered Mexican cacti which are difficult and very slow to grow: Geohintonia mexicana, Aztekium hintonii and A. ritteri. 

    With a small contribution as well from the Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Technologia (CONACYT), the project will also include the publication of the results of the research as well as training of personnel in the involved institutions.  Despite the shortage of funds, there have already been advances in the preparation of the protocols of these species.  Now, with this timely offer of 1500 British Pounds Sterling ($32,000 pesos), the project can be completed and the results offered to the field of scientific research.



    The Botanical Garden asks City Hall
    to revoke the permit of the
    housing development “El Deseo”
    next to the ecological zone.

    Since 2006 the real estate company, “Casas San Miguelito”, has been trying to build a condo complex of 93 houses on 5 hectares next to El Charco and Parque Landeta, most of which is inside the ecological zone specified by the Municipality. The model is similar to their construction on the road to Celaya called “El Encanto”.  Besides the adverse visual impact that such a massive construction would have on the principal entranceway to El Charco, the project exceeds the density legally permitted for this zone which is designated H-O or very low density.  Despite the illegality of El Deseo, the town council approved the permit last March. Since then, El Charco has tried through various means to have the permit revoked but, on the contrary, not only have the city authorities refused this request but have actually pushed through new permits for housing by this real estate company in recent days.

    el deseo

    We thank our friends of Va Por San Miguel for this virtual image of what will be the entrance to El Charco if the city council does not revoke the permission of the El Deseo development ...

    Bird Walks:
    September 2nd and 16th starting at 9:00a.m.

    Signe Hammer will be leading bird walks in El Charco on these dates. Perhaps you’ll be seeing Least Grebe and Coot chicks in the water and, later in the month, the first of the fall migrant songbirds. Signe began birding in NYC's Central Park in 1996, when she began following the famous Red-tailed Hawk Pale Male and his offspring. That led to a fascination with the resident songbirds and the many migrants that pass through the city's parks, including Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge.


    This month the walks will take place on September 2nd and 16th.  The walks are for birders of all levels. They begin at 9:00 a.m. and will last about 2 1/2 hours. No reservations needed, and feel free to leave the walk at any time.  Please bring binoculars, wear comfortable walking shoes and a hat, and bring water. There will be instruction on the proper use of binoculars and other tips on good birding techniques. Signe will meet you after you pass through the Reception area of the Botanical Garden. Cost: 50 pesos for members of either El Charco or Audubon, 80 pesos for non-members of either organization (includes El Charco entrance fee).




    Garden Lecture Series:
    Tree Identification Walk
    with Fen Taylor

    On Monday, September 14th, Fen Taylor will lead a walk through El Charco focusing on the various kinds of trees, their characteristics, care, problems, etc.   Fen has been gardening in San Miguel for over 30 years and built an environmentally friendly home just outside of town. She has many wonderful stories and surprising information about the main trees in El Charco.  Have you ever tasted the seed of the mesquite tree? Try this and learn lots more.

    The tree identification walk will start at the entrance to the Garden at 10:00a.m.  Cost is 70 pesos for members of El Charco and 100 pesos for non-members. Limited admission to this walk/presentation so please reserve a space early at


    Visit to CEDESA (Centro de Desarrollo Agropecuario), A.C.
    WEDNESDAY, September 30, leaving at 9 a.m.

    CEDESA is a nonprofit grass-roots campesino development center that has served rural communities of northern Guanajuato for over 40 years, focussing for the past decade on ecological sustainability and self-sufficiency. Founded and run by campesinos, CEDESA is a horizontal project that has as its goal an integrated concept of development - not only economic but also social and personal, promoting mutual aid and collective work, raising consciousness about environmental issues and instilling love for and rootedness in the earth and one's community. CEDESA's organic products (including honey, nopal products and liquors), are marketed under the name of Tierra Generosa and sold at the El Charco del Ingenio tienda.

      tierra generosa


    The CEDESA eco-tour offers two options for visitors from San Miguel: a half-day and a full-day trip. The tour starts at 10 a.m. with a video that gives some historical background of the organization and its projects, followed by a discussion, then a walk around the facilities to see the eco-technologies that CEDESA promotes in the campesino communities with which they work: wood-saving stoves, rainwater harvesting, a solar distiller (in development), dry toilets, gray water recycling and drip irrigation.


    According to the visitors' interests, the tour continues to the CEDESA hortalizas (vegetable gardens), composting and beekeeping areas, granja (farm animals), parcelas (fields) and a scale model of the Independence Aquifer watershed, which was constructed during a 10-month course on groundwater recently given at CEDESA by the Universidad Autonoma de México (UNAM).

    The all-you-can-eat lunch is prepared mostly from CEDESA's organic gardens and fields. After lunch, guests visit a campesino community to see and discuss the work being done by families that have implemented CEDESA projects.

    CEDESA is located just south of Dolores Hidalgo, about an hour away from San Miguel de Allende. We will leave San Miguel at 9 a.m. from the Fabrica Aurora parking lot. The half-day trip returns around 1:30 pm. The full-day trip returns around 6 p.m. We will carpool, so please let us know if you want to do the half-day or full-day tour; if you can drive (over some dirt roads in the afternoon) and if so, how many people you can take. The cost for the half-day trip is $100 pesos while the full-day trip is $250 pesos. To register:



    COSMOS by Walter L. Meagher

    We have less confidence that the universe is orderly, a harmonious whole, as 18th century thinkers thought. We believe it is subject to mathematical formulation, yes, but not one step from the Garden of Eden. Everyone knows Cosmos. It is a plant with a treasured ornamental value, cultivated all over the world, just as its name suggests. Often we think beauty should be rare. Cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus in Latin) violates this rule. In El Charco it grows abundantly in swaying drifts, convivially consorting with Sunflower, at the eastern end of the presa’s wet meadow; outside El Charco it grows just as comfortably in rough ground - dry ground on road edges - as in oak woods above Mexico City.   cosmos

    Cosmos is egalitarian, providing beauty for all; but we must look more closely at the plant and consider a few botanical features. ‘Bipinnatus’ means twice subdivided. The leaf is cut into fine sections. Why is this so? The beauty of Cosmos lies in a combination of two characters: the color of its flowers and their symmetry. Because Cosmos is a member of the Aster family, each ‘flower’ is actually a combination of disk flowers, yellow in Cosmos, and ray flowers, rosy pink, sometimes lilac, even white. The whole flowering head, a veritable city of male and female flowers, is symmetrical. Cut it in half from any angle and the cut sides will be equal. This is not so for other flowers you may know, say an orchid or a penstemon. Symmetry gives the ‘flower’ immediacy; the form is fully present to our gaze. Indeed, it could be gathered into a bouquet, or a single flower put in a buttonhole; however it is arranged, or seen wild, color and form arrest our attention and please us.

    Adapted from Wild & Wonderful: Nature Up Close in the Botanical Garden, ‘El Charco del Ingenio’, San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, 2009.



    ROOTS by Walter Meagher


    Roots sense where they are moving.  Starch cells in the tip of a root ‘tell it where to grow’.  For this reason, we say the root navigates through the soil.  Navigation is not conscious, of course; in some way that we don’t understand, starch grains, loaded in the growing root tips, ‘tell’ the root how to move through dead leaves, stick fragments, sand and gravel.

    What happens when the growing tip comes up against a boulder?  A stress for the root, but not a puzzle it can’t solve.  Stopping at the impediment, ethylene is produced, then protein receptors detect the ethylene as a signal to slow the rate of root growth, preventing cell damage. 

    Time to think!  The root, at a slower rate of growth, ‘feels’ its way around the boulder.  In conclusion - contrary to our everyday idea about the matter - roots are sensitive organs, picking their way through the earth, finding the easiest route through a soilscape of varied texture.


    Yoga “Desde el corazón” (from the Heart)
    in el  Charco del Ingenio

    Cost 100 pesos per class, Mon & Wed 10-11:15
    Monthly package (8 classes)  680 pesos
    For more information or to reserve a space, please contact Juan Manuel:
    Tel 154-4715.
    Need to bring yoga mat and blanket
    Boveda at the Botanical Garden

    Enjoy a wonderful yoga experience in a perfect setting.  Those who are familiar with this ecological site know that the experience starts at the entrance, its beauty immediately filling our senses.  The harmony, silence, peace, clean air, plants and animals make this place a fountain of inspiration in which to practice yoga in San Miguel.  El Charco del Ingenio offers a perfect mix that invites our senses to open up to the natural beauty around us and within us.

    Ximena Velasco has practised yoga for 11 years and for the last 10 years has shared her passion for this philosphy-discipline through her classes.  She has studied in various countries such as France; Italy, India, Nepal, Australia, Mexico and the US among others.  She has explored various yoga techniques such as Iyengar, Ashtanga, Anusara, y Vinyasa.  Her passion to understand the human body has led her to investigate other techniques of movement, meditation and alternative medicine to bring the necessary tools that her students need. Ximena teaches in several places in San Miguel.

    Yoga, as other ancient philosophy-disciplines in the world, is inspired by nature, learning to observe, hear, feel and imitate.  This work allows us to observe, hear and feel ourselves, connecting us to our inner nature. If you are a lover of nature and yoga, this is a worthwhile experience whether you are a resident or visitor.


    Guided Tours in English

    Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10a.m.-12:30p.m.
    A hat, water and good walking shoes are recommended. 50 pesos for members and 80 pesos for non-members. Private tours are also available for 150 pesos per person (minimum 5 persons). Reservations are not necessary.  Try using the shuttle service to arrive and return.

    Friday September 4, at 9 p.m.
    Sunday September 13, at 10 a.m.

    This relaxing steam bath is a ritual of healing and purification and is available every month for both men and women. Bring bathing suits and towels. It takes place in the ruins of an old hacienda, under the moonlight, across the dam from El Charco’s reception area.

    The mixture of heat, humidity and scented plants and herbs is a purifying experience for mind and spirit. Its benefits are many: it activates blood circulation, increases natural body defenses, eliminates odors, relaxes muscles, helps keep the nervous system in good shape, stimulates breathing and is excellent for weight loss.

    250 pesos, space is limited so please call for reservations or information 154 88 38, 154 4715, cell 01 443 10 3 3019 or in El Charco’s main office.


    temazcal exterior



    Friday, September 4th at sunset  

    luna llena


    We invite everyone to this open celebration that has been taking place for many years during the full moon cycle at the Four Winds Plaza in the Botanical Garden.

    We celebrate the Full Moon Ceremony to come back into balance with nature on earth. Come and enthusiastically participate and dedicate your intention and energies at the Plaza of the Four Winds.  Bonfire, incense, chanting, drumming included.  Bring flutes, cymbals, a drum or any other instrument if you want.  

    It’s worth arriving a little early to admire the setting of the sun and the appearance of the moon over the mountains. You may want to bring a coat for cool evenings.  Admission is 30 pesos, free for members. Children welcome. Any questions, call Alicia Mayo at 152 -0376.



    You can make a difference

    And you can make a difference with your contribution - volunteer or donate. We appreciate your support!! Please contact Naomi at

    E-mail any comments or questions to the Editor at


    “Botanical Gardens are not just places for conserving and displaying plants.  At the dawn of the new millennium, they are main actors in the defense and protection of the planet’s biodiversity, with a growing focus on the regional – thinking globally and acting locally.  And they are also builders of a new environmental culture for the societies that inhabit the Earth.” 




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