Trees are important in Jamaica and the Caribbean, as they provide a variety of services to people.
They help protect against erosion, enhance aesthetics, and provide food for many species of animals.
And, of course, they are incredibly beautiful to just look at!
All these different functions in their ecosystem have created a massive variety of different shapes, sizes, and even entirely different families of plants.
So many trees in Jamaica have such interesting stories behind them, that it can be hard to keep track of them.
That’s why we have created this list of some of the best-known trees of Jamaica. Many of these have been introduced by humans, others were brought here by nature.
But all have come to call this island their home.
Cassia trees are a lush tropical plant that grows in tropical climates and is native to the Caribbean islands.
They are used in folk medicine to treat stomach ailments and diarrhea and to promote lactation.
In Jamaica, cassia leaves are used to flavor food and drinks. The leaves are sometimes added to tea and coffee to give them a sweet taste.
Jamaican people use the leaves to make a drink called “Ginger Beer”. Ginger beer is made by boiling water and adding ginger root, sugar, and cassia leaves.
Cassia leaves contain tannins and flavonoids. Tannins bind to proteins, fats, and carbohydrates, slowing digestion.
Flavonoids promote the production of bile acids, which aid in digestion.
Cassia leaves are used to relieve diarrhea and stomach ailments. They are considered safe for pregnant women, nursing mothers, and children.
Cassia tea is taken orally to ease symptoms associated with stomach ulcers and irritable bowel syndrome.
The Silver Thatch tree is quite a remarkable species. The leaves of the tree are silver-colored, thanks to the scaly texture of these leaves that reflects light in a silvery pattern, and they grow into a thick mat that covers the entire tree.
When the leaves fall off, they leave behind the trunk of the palm tree.
The silver thatch tree is a tropical tree. It is native to the island nation of Jamaica and is listed under the category of endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature
Because of this, silver thatch trees are protected under Jamaican laws. If anyone cuts down any part of the tree without permission, he or she can face jail time.
The silver thatch tree is native to the Caribbean region and is a symbol of pride for the people of Jamaica.
The pimento tree is a tropical evergreen shrub that is native to Jamaica. This tree grows naturally there. The fruit of the pimento tree is used as a seasoning for many kinds of food.
This spice is often added to dishes such as chicken wings and fish.
The pimento tree is grown in several parts of Jamaica. They are found in the mountains, where they produce the spice that is widely called ‘allspice’ around the world.
It is the only spice that is native to the island of Jamaica.
Some people believe that the pimento has healing properties. It is said that eating pimento helps cure illnesses.
They also believe that eating the pimento or the allspice that is produced will bring good luck and prosperity.
West Indian Ebony
A beautiful tropical tree, the West Indian ebony tree is widely known for its succulent leaves and the bright yellow flowers that grow on it.
Whilst Ebony trees are native to Jamaica, they have also naturalized to other tropical regions of the world, including various places in South Asia and Africa.
They grow up to 30 feet tall and live for hundreds of years.
When cut down, these trees are highly valued for their timber, which is used to make furniture and decorative items.
The wood that the ebony tree produces, also known as cocuswood, was a very popular wood to use in the manufacture of many instruments.
Their hardness and tone quality lent to many kinds of wind instruments very nicely, such as in many flutes, clarinets, and oboes, which this wood was used to make in the 19th century.
It’s also considered the premium fretboard material by guitar builders.
Jamaica is well-known for its palm trees, but the Royal Palm that grows here is a particular favorite. Royal palm trees are native to tropical climates across the Caribbean islands, as well as Jamaica.
They are known for their beautiful leaves, large crown, and thick trunk. The most popular species of royal palm is the Sabal palmetto.
There are many uses for the Royal Palm tree. Some of these include medicine, food, paper, lumber, building material, fuel, and roofing.
The leaves of the Royal Palm tree are used to treat infections, fever, pain, inflammation, and diarrhea. The leaves are boiled to make tea.
Royal palms are a tall species of palm, being able to grow over 60 feet tall. Their trunks are usually between 5 and 10 inches wide.
The leaves can be anywhere from a few inches to several meters long and are often just as wide. The leaves are almost always green, with very few exceptions.
Whilst many of the trees we have listed here are just that, trees, the tree fern is technically from the fern family, along with the rest of its subfamily of plants.
However, with this species being over 7 meters tall in some cases, it is safe to call this plant a tree, given how it fills the same role in its natural habitat.
Tree ferns themselves are native to the tropics and subtropics of many parts of the world, including Africa, Australia, Southern Europe, Madagascar, New Zealand, and Southern Europe.
The leaves are pinnate and alternate, and the fronds can grow up to 12 feet tall.
Jamaican Tree ferns are a relatively slender species of tree ferns, but their stems and bark grow many spiny stalks on them to deter animals and people from trying to eat or otherwise remove them.
Whilst this tree was originally a native of South America, this plant can now be found across both the Americas and the islands of the Caribbeans.
Cannonballs have grown naturally in Jamaica for hundreds of years at this point. It is believed that people first started using them for medicinal purposes thousands of years ago.
They are known locally as “cannons” because the flower buds that form as clusters on the leaves were said to have resembled big clusters of cannonballs
(We’ll leave you to be the judge of whether or not they were on the money with this one).
Cannonball trees have been used for centuries in Jamaica for healing purposes, and are a staple of Jamaican culture.
Some people have claimed that eating the seeds prevents tooth decay.
They say that when you eat the seed, it goes down into your stomach where it dissolves the calcium, preventing cavities.
Red Birch Tree
Red birches grow in abundance along the coast, and they’re a staple part of Jamaican folklore. The tree was used in folk medicine, and it had religious significance.
Today, the trees are protected in several national parks and reserves.
The leaves of the tree are also used in traditional medicine.
The leaves are chewed as a remedy for sore throats, coughs, and colds. It’s believed that the leaves contain antibacterial properties.
Not every tree that has made its home in Jamaica is there by natural means. Some are grown commercially for agriculture, both across the country, and exported to the rest of the world.
Almond trees are just one example of this. Whilst it is unclear how exactly this variety of almonds made its home on the Caribbean island, it was likely transported over at some point during the European colonization of the island.
Since its introduction, it has been cultivated into its special variety of this widely used nut, which is often sold as a kind of almond oil.
This oil is a great source of carbohydrates, iron potassium, and many other minerals that the human body needs.
Interestingly, almonds aren’t particularly popular in Jamaica. Much of the cultivated almonds on the islands are sold to international markets, rather than being sold in Jamaican markets.
Famous across the world both as a tree and for the fruit that it produces, the ackee, often associated with the Caribbean islands and Jamaica, is a native of West Africa.
The fruit was imported to the island in the mid 18th century. Since then, it has become best known for its use in Caribbean culture and Cuisine.
Ackee is now the national fruit of Jamaica, and Saltfish and Ackee are the national dishes of the country.
Jamaicans eat ackee fruit either raw or cooked, depending on the season. They eat it boiled, fried, steamed, baked, roasted, or stewed.
The fruit is usually allowed to open first before the seeds are taken out, and the fruit is prepared for whatever dish it is being used in.
Ackee is rich in vitamin A, B6, C, E, iron, zinc, calcium, and fiber. Its high levels of lutein and zeaxanthin protect against free radical damage and help prevent macular degeneration.
Star Apple Tree
Perhaps one of the most exotic fruits out there, star apple trees is a fruit that is native to both Jamaica and the rest of Central America.
These trees grow well on the island and are very popular in Jamaica for their distinct star shape when it is cut open, and for their soft inside.
The star apple tree starts producing fruit after only a few years, usually 5 to 6 years after planting.
Star apple fruits however are pretty difficult to get from their tree, as the fruit naturally dries up and falls to the ground when allowed to in the wild.
In addition to being delicious, these fruits are rich in antioxidants, beta carotene, vitamin C, and fiber.
As you can see, there are plenty of trees that call this tropical paradise home.
Regardless of where they came from, whether they were always found on the island, or if they were imported over time, what is clear is that these trees all provide something unique to the environment.
From providing food and shelter to the local animals and plants, to adding to the beauty of our surroundings.
We hope you enjoyed learning about these trees and maybe even learned something new. Happy exploring!