Did you know Jamaica’s national symbols are a fruit which must be cooked before eaten; a tiny bird, two trees, one for its flower the other for its wood; a coat of arms with a couple that doesn’t exist and a rather unique flag that sums up the nation’s philosophy?
The fruit that must be cooked is ackee which originated in Ghana and brought to Jamaican when African were enslaved. Ackee is the main ingredient in the national dish. For information more on the ackee, have a look at our blog titled ‘Ackee, a favourite.’
The tiny bird is the swallow tail humming bird (Trochilidae Polytmus) endemic to Jamaica and measures between 7.5- 13 cm in length. The male hummingbird with its long tail, iridescent coloured feathers and sword-like beak is often portrayed suspended before a hibiscus flower.
The Lignum Vitae tree (Guiacum officinale) tree’s flower is the national flower. During the warmer months the tree produces small, delicate blue flowers that form a canopy. The Lignum Vitae’s hard-ornamental wood is also said to have medicinal properties.
The Blue Mahoe (Hibiscus elatus) is the national tree and endemic to Jamaica. When polished the wood reveals beautiful blue-green shades with yellow. The wood is in high demand both locally and abroad, consequently conservation is urgent to ensure this national symbol remains.
The couple on the coat of arms are Taino, Jamaica’s indigenous people who gave the island its name Xaymaca, which means land of wood and water. The Taino population have all but disappeared from the island, although some Jamaicans have conducted DNA tests to discover their Taino ancestry. For more on the Taino have a look at our blog titled ‘The First Jamaicans.’
The national moto ‘Out of many one people’ at the base of the coat of arms refers to the population’s racial diversity.
In 1996 the symbolism of Jamaica’s national flag of black, green and gold was revised - Black symbolizes the strength and creativity of the Jamaican people; gold for natural wealth and beauty of sunlight; green stands for hope and agricultural resources.
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