The National Flower & the National Tree

The Caymans are home to almost 30 indigenous orchid species, but islanders selected the wild banana orchid as their national flower. It blooms on all three islands in April and May, and is spectacular to behold. The wild banana orchid on Grand Cayman has white blossoms and purple lips, whereas those on Little Cayman and Cayman Brac are yellow in color.

The national tree, the silver thatch palm, has even figured into the economy of the islands. The underside of the palm leaves is silvery, with a lightish green upper frond. Locals call this palm "the money tree." Islanders used to go into the interior and crop the leaves from the top of the silver thatch palm. In turn, they would trade them for goods at the local shops. Merchants would then exchange them for goods imported from Jamaica.

The silver thatch palm has very tough leaves, and the early islanders also used these fronds to create thatch roofs over their homes. These roofs made the houses cool and rainproof. Sometimes they were used to create small kitchens away from the main house. This reduced the risk of fire. In the case of the kitchens, the palm leaves were also used for walls.

Except in rare instances, the silver thatch palm is no longer used for roofs, but it is still used for such items as belts, rope, and baskets.

Did You Know?

  • The green sea turtle can survive underwater for days at a time.
  • The Cayman Trough, between the Caymans and Jamaica, contains the deepest waters in the Caribbean, reaching depths of 6.4km (4 miles) or more.
  • Fire coral will actually defend itself and attack you. You'll feel like a match has been put to your body. (Outfitters will issue warnings on how to avoid this and other dangers while snorkeling and scuba diving.)
  • A peg-legged, swashbuckling turtle is the national symbol of the Cayman Islands, seen as a sort of mascot.
  • Caymanians refused to become a protectorate of Jamaica when the latter island country achieved independence in 1962.
  • Agouti, rabbit-size rodents, still live on the island. Cayman residents once hunted them for meat.
  • Only one egg out of 10,000 laid by the green sea turtle reaches maturity.
  • More than 100 nationalities live on the Cayman Islands. One-fifth of Caymanians are Jamaican.
  • The first settlers on the Caymans may have been deserters from the British army in Jamaica.
  • According to numerous surveys, Caymanians have one of the highest standards of living in the Caribbean.
  • The root cassava was used by the TaĆ­no Indians to make flour, and Caymanians use it today to make a local dessert called "heavy cake." But don't try this yourself -- it is poisonous until processed to remove its prussic acid.
  • In the summer months, Texans and many travelers from the southern U.S. flee to the Caymans, where the cooling trade winds provide a (relative) respite from the heat.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.