On August 6, 1962, the flag of Jamaica was unfurled for the first time. The birth of an independent Jamaica was, perhaps, the most significant event in the nation’s history. Today, Jamaicans celebrate the day to commemorate that historic moment. It is a day of national pride and commemorates the country’s achievements.
Jamaican Coat of Arms
The Jamaican national motto is ‘Out of Many, One People’, based on the population’s multiracial roots. The motto is represented on the Coat of Arms, showing a male and female member of the Taino tribe (the island’s original inhabitants) standing on either side of a shield which bears a red cross with five golden pineapples. The crest shows a Jamaican crocodile mounted on the Royal Helmet of the British Monarchy.
The National Fruit – Ackee
Ackee (Blighia sapida) is the national fruit of Jamaica as well as one of the major components of the island’s national dish – ackee and saltfish. Although the ackee is not indigenous to Jamaica, it has deep rooted historic associations. Originally, it was imported to the island from West Africa, but now grows here luxuriantly, producing large quantities of edible fruit each year.
The National Bird – Doctor Bird
The doctor bird, or swallow tail humming bird, is one of the most spectacular of the 320 species of hummingbirds. It lives only in Jamaica. These birds’ beautiful feathers have no counterpart in the entire bird population and they produce iridescent colors characteristic only of this family. In addition to these beautiful feathers, the mature male has two long tails which stream behind him when he flies. For years the doctor bird has been immortalized in Jamaican folklore and song.
The National Flower – Lignum Vitae
The island’s national flower, Lignum Vitae, was found here by Christopher Columbus. The flower is native to continental tropical American and the West Indies. In Jamaica, it grows in the dry woodland along the north and south coasts of the island. The plant is highly ornamental, producing an attractive blue flower and orange-yellow fruit, while its crown has a distinctive rounded shape. Its name, translated from Latin, means “wood of life.”
The National Tree – Blue Mahoe
The Blue Mahoe is the national tree of Jamaica. It is indigenous to the island and grows quite rapidly, often attaining 20 m (66 feet) or more in height. The tree is quite attractive with a straight trunk, broad green leaves and hibiscus-like flowers. The flowers change color as they mature, going from bright yellow to orange red and finally to crimson. The name mahoe is derived from a Carib Indian word. The ‘blue’ refers to blue-green streaks in the polished wood which give it a truly unique appearance.