Our National Symbols are representative of our rich
history and culture. They define us as a people –
Jamaicans who are proud of where we are coming from.
The Jamaica National Flag was first raised on Independence
Day, August 6, 1962. It signifies the birth of our
Flag brings to mind memories of past achievements
and gives inspiration towards further success. It
is flown on many triumphant occasions, showing the
pride that Jamaicans have in their country and in
the flag itself.
A bipartisan committee of the Jamaica House of Representatives
designed the Jamaican Flag which consists of a diagonal
cross with four triangles placed side by side. The
diagonal cross is gold; the top and bottom triangles
are green; and the hoist and fly (side) triangles
“The sun shineth, the land is green and the
people are strong and creative” is the symbolism
of the colours of the flag. Black depicts the strength
and creativity of the people; Gold, the natural wealth
and beauty of sunlight; and green, hope and agricultural
Code for use of the
· The Jamaican flag should never be allowed
to touch the ground or floor. It should not be flown
or used only for decorative purposes on anything that
is for temporary use and is likely to be discarded,
except on state occasions.
The flag should never be smaller than any other flag
flown at the same time.
When the flag becomes worn and must be replaced, burn
Do not place any other flag above or to the right
of the Jamaican flag, except at foreign embassies,
consulates and missions.
Do not raise any foreign flag publicly, unless the
Jamaican flag is also flown, except at foreign embassies,
consulates and missions.
The flag shouldn’t be draped over vehicles,
except on military, police and state occasions.
Coat of Arms
The Jamaican national motto is ‘Out
of Many One People’, based on the population’s
multi-racial roots. The motto is represented on the
Coat of Arms, showing a male and female member of
the Taino tribe 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 and mantling.
– The Ackee (Blighia sapida)
me ackee go a Linstead Market, not a quattie wud sell”
is a line in the popular Jamaican folk song ‘Linstead
Market’. Ackee is the national fruit of Jamaica
as well as a component of the national dish –
ackee and codfish.
the ackee is not indigenous to Jamaica, it has remarkable
historic associations. Originally, it was imported
to the island from West Africa, probably on a slave
ship. Now it grows here luxuriantly, producing large
quantities of edible fruit each year.
is derived from the original name Ankye which comes
from the Twi language of Ghana. The botanical name
of the fruit – Blighia Sapida – was given
in honour of Captain William Bligh of “Mutiny
on the Bounty” fame, who in 1793 took plants
of the fruit from Jamaica to England. Captain Bligh
also brought the first breadfruit to Jamaica. Before
this, the ackee was unknown to science. In 1778 Dr
Thomas Clarke, one of the earliest propogators of
the tree, introduced it to the eastern parishes.
ackee tree grows up to 15.24m (50ft) under favourable
conditions. It bears large red and yellow fruit 7.5
– 10 cm (3-4 in.) long. When ripe these fruits
burst into sections revealing shiny black round seeds
on top of a yellow aril which is partially edible.
are two main types of ackee identified by the colour
of the aril. That with a soft yellow aril is known
as ‘butter’ and ‘cheese’ is
hard and cream-coloured. Ackee
contains a poison (hypoglcin) which is dissipated
when it is properly harvested and cooked. The fruit
should not be gathered until the pods open naturally.
In addition, the aril must be properly cleaned of
red fibre and the cooking water discarded.
is the only place where the fruit is widely eaten.
However, it has been introduced into most of the other
Caribbean islands (for example, Trinidad, Grenada,
Antigua and Barbados), Central America and Florida,
where it is known by different names and does not
thrive in economic quantities. Jamaican canned ackee
is now exported and sold in markets patronized by
is a very delicious fruit and when boiled and cooked
with seasoning and salt fish or salt pork, it is considered
one of Jamaica’s greatest delicacies.
– Lignum Vitae (Guiacum officinale)
Lignum Vitae was found here by Christopher Columbus.
Its name, when translated from Latin, means “wood
of life” – probably adopted because
of its medicinal qualities. The short, compact tree
is native to continental tropical American and the
West Indies. In Jamaica it grows best in the dry woodland
along the north and south coasts of the island.
plant is extremely ornamental, producing an attractive
blue flower and orange-yellow fruit, while its crown
has an attractive rounded shape. The tree is one of
the most useful in the world. The body, gum, bark,
fruit, leaves and blossom all serve some useful purpose.
In fact, the tree has been regarded for its medicinal
properties. A gum (gum guaiac) obtained from its resin
was once regarded as a purgative. It was exported
to Europe from the early sixteenth century as a remedy
(combined with mercury) for syphillis and has also
been used as a remedy for gout.
wood was once used as propeller shaft bearings in
nearly all the ships sailing the ‘Seven Seas’.
Because of this, Lignum Vitae and Jamaica are closely
associated in shipyards worldwide. It is a very heavy
wood which will sink in water. Because of its toughness
it is used for items such as mortars, mallets, pulleys
and batons carried by policemen. Sometimes it is used
– The Blue Mahoe (Hibiscus elatus)
Blue Mahoe is the national tree of Jamaica. It is
indigenous to the island and grows quite rapidly,
often attaining 20m (66ft) or more in height. In wetter
districts it will grow in a wide range of elevations,
up to 1200m (4000 ft.) and is often used in reforestation.
tree is quite attractive with its straight trunk,
broad green leaves and hibiscus-like flowers. The
attractive flower changes colour as it matures, going
from bright yellow to orange red and finally to crimson.
name mahoe is derived from a Carib Indian word. The
‘blue’refers to blue-green streaks in
the polished wood, giving it a distinctive appearance.
Blue Mahoe is so beautiful and durable that it is
widely used for cabinet making and also for making
decorative objects such as picture frames, bowls and
inner bark of the tree is often referred to as Cuba
bark because it was formerly used for tying bundles
of Havana cigars. Cuba is the only other place where
the Blue Mahoe grows naturally.
- The Doctor-Bird (Trochilus polytmus) or Swallow-Tail
doctor bird or swallow tail humming bird, is one of
the most outstanding 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 colours characterstic
only of that family. In addition to these beautiful
feathers, the mature male has tow long tails which
stream behind him when he flies. For years the doctor
bird has been immortalized in Jamaican folklore and
origin of the name ‘Docor-bird’ is somewhat
unsettled. It has been said that the name was given
because the erect black crest and tails resemble the
top hat and long tail coats doctors used to wear in
the old days. Other schools of thought believe that
it refers to the way the birds lance the flowers with
their bills to extract nectar.
to Frederic Cassidy the bird is an object of superstition.
The Arawaks spread the belief that the bird had magical
powers. They called it the ‘God bird’,
believing it was the reincarnation of dead souls.
This is manifested in a folk song which says: “Doctor
Bud a cunny bud, hard bud fe dead”. (It is a
clever bird which cannot be easily killed).