Jamaica is a country in the Caribbean Sea. Its size is less than 11.000 square kilometers (4.244 square miles), and it has a population of almost 3 million. It became independent from the United Kingdom in 1962. Although Jamaica is known for its carefree lifestyle, few of us have ever thought about what is the national flower of this tropical nation.
Jamaica’s national flower is the Lignum Vitae flower. It is an interesting plant as it is a flower and a tree at the same time. For example, the national tree of the Bahamas is the Lignum Vitae tree. It is said that it was first introduced to other countries of the world by the famous explorer Christopher Columbus.
In translation, Lignum Vitae means wood of life. The name was probably selected thanks to its medicinal qualities. Other known names for Jamaica’s national flower Lignum Vitae are Palo Santo and Aura Palo.
The Appearance of the Lignum Vitae Flower
Jamaica’s national flower – Lignum Vitae, is a plant that grows typically in the form of bushes or small trees. It has small green oval leaves with purple or rather dark blue inflorescence and yellow fruit with a round-shaped crown, making it extremely ornamental. The plant is also known for its extremely slow growth pace.
Where To Find Lignum Vitae Trees
In addition to botanical gardens, Lignum Vitae can also be found in nature. The best growing environment for the plant is in the tropical regions of America like Colombia and Venezuela, and the West Indies.
A common factor about all these areas is being rather dry. Hence the woodlands in the Northern and Southern coasts of Jamaica are the best growing environments.
Uses for Jamaica National Flower
After being discovered by the Spanish world explorer Columbus, the first uses for this plant were related to medicine. It helped people of the 15th and 16th centuries to fight everything from arthritis (a serious medical condition related to swelling or inflammation of joints) to cough and syphilis as a remedy for gout. One way to use it as medicine was to pound it into powder, but another option was to cut the plant into small chips and use it for brewing tea.
Thanks to its density, the Lignum Vitae tree or flower is used in the equipment of many outdoor games. Most of them have something to do with withstanding heavy impacts.
The first and most common use for the plant is in cricket, where the weight of the tree is used in bails. Thanks to it, you can keep on playing even with windy weather without having to worry about bails falling.
Used in the production of croquet mallets. Jamaica’s national flower helps to carve a sturdy and heavy mallet that you never have to take care of. The wood is rich in oil, hence maintaining a high-quality look, especially when polished, and does not secede any splinters. For the same reasons, Jamaica’s national flower is used in the production of skittle balls as well.
Sailing is a part of our lives where special combinations of materials is a must-have feature.
Until the last third of the 20th century, Jamaica’s national flower was widely used in the process of making ships and sailing boats. From belaying pins to deadeyes and sheaves of blocks, wood was used due to its density, rigidness, and richness of natural oils.
Talking about density – Lignum Vitae is a wood that sinks when put into water. The reason behind that is simple – it has a greater density than water, and hence it sinks. Lignum Vitae is also referred to as Ironwood.
Thanks to that, the salty water, thunderstorms, extremely bright sun, and high winds won’t damage vital parts of your sailboat, even if you don’t give them any care. Yes, people could have used iron to produce necessary parts, but it would start to rust very fast if no special layers of protection were used. For the same reasons, it was used as propeller shaft bearings when motorized boats became more common.
Today Lignum Vitae was replaced with synthetic materials that have the even better sturdiness and are cheaper and faster to produce.
Thanks to its softness and durability, similar to metal, it was used in British police truncheon as it will hurt in situations where necessary but won’t do too much damage as iron truncheon would do.
Jamaica’s national flower can also be found in carvers’ mallets and pestles, mortars, and cannons because of its durability and carefree serviceable life.
Railways – in San Francisco, during the 1906 earthquake, the city suffered great damage, and the city needed fast solutions for restoring the trolley system. As the East wasn’t able to meet the demand for insulators, San Francisco needed other solutions, so they turned their heads towards the Lignum Vitae tree.
It had already confirmed its strength as it was used in ships for centuries and was able to withstand the weight of long cables. In addition to that, during peak electricity hours, the wires got hot, so regular wood was not an option. Lignum Vitae posts were widely used until the 1970s, and the last posts were removed in the 2000s.