Nicaragua’s Natural National Symbols

The national flower of Nicaragua is the beautiful and fragrant Sacuanjoche, commonly referred to as Frangipani. Growing as shrubs and small trees, these delicate blooms consist of five creamy-white petals, shaded yellow toward the center. They are indigenous to Central America, the Caribbean, South America and Mexico, but have been introduced in other parts of the world where the climate is tropical to sub-tropical. In Nicaragua, they are seen virtually everywhere and appear on some of the country’s currency. Interestingly, the fragrance of the Sacuanjoche (Plumeria alba) is particularly strong at night, luring sphinx moths to perform the task of pollinating them, which they do with no reward as the flowers have no nectar. The Plumeria genus is named for Charles Plumier, a 17th century French botanist who documented many ‘New World’ animal and plant species.

The Madroño (Calycophyllum candidissimum) is the national tree of Nicaragua and is found growing freely in the wild, as well as being cultivated in parks, on sidewalks and in the gardens of schools and government buildings. With exceptionally hard wood and reddish bark that constantly peels off the trunk and branches, the Madroño can grow up to 20 meters in height. Its flowers are white and have a sweet fragrance, while its oblong leaves are glossy and dark green.

Known as the Guardabarranco in Nicaragua, the Turquoise-browed Motmot (Eumomota superciliosa) is Nicaragua’s national bird. Favoring open habitats, Guardabarrancos can be seen on the edges of forests and in scrubland, or perching on fences and overhead wires where they remain on the lookout for small reptiles and insects to feed on. In breeding season, these colorful little birds lay between three and six eggs in a tunnel-type nest in river banks, wells and similar structures. An interesting feature of the Guardabarranco, besides its striking colors, is its two long tail feathers with feathered tufts on the ends. While unusual features are often reserved for the male of the species to use in courtship displays, in the case of the Guardabarranco, both males and females have spectacular coloring and tail feathers.

Nicaragua is an exceptionally beautiful country, with plenty of eye-catching flora and fauna. If you have the good fortune to spend some time exploring this destination, be sure to look out for these natural national symbols.