Name: Officially changed from British Honduras to Belize in 1973
Capital: Belmopan City
Type of government: Parliamentary democracy
National anthem: “Land of the Free”
Population: 357,000 (2012 World Bank estimate)
National Tree: Mahogany (Swietenia macrophilla)
This prized tree has been heavily logged in Belize, and large specimens are found in only a few areas. The "big leaf" mahogany tree can grow more than 150 feet high and takes 80 years to reach maturity. The wood has a coppery red sheen, a tight, knot-free grain, and a single mature tree can be worth US$100,000 or more.
National Flower: Black Orchid (Prosthechea cochleata)
The name is deceiving. Only the lip of the flower is black, and the long, slender sepals and petals are yellow-green. These fragrant little flowers bloom year-round and can be found growing on trees in damp areas.
National Bird: Keel-Billed Toucan (Ramphastos solfurantus)
The toucan, with its huge canoe-shaped beak and bright yellow cheeks, can be found in open areas all over the country and loves to eat fruit.
National Animal: Baird's Tapir (Tapirello bairdii)
Called the mountain cow by most Belizeans, the tapir is actually related to the primitive horse and rhinoceros. A beefy vegetarian, it can weigh up to 600 pounds and is often found in heavy bush, near rivers and streams.
National Motto: Sub Umbra Florero
"Under the Shade I Flourish" refers to the shade of the mahogany tree, which is on Belize's coat of arms and flag.
National Drink: Orange Fanta and Belikin Beer (unofficially, of course).
Did You Know?
More than 40% of Belize’s land is protected as national parks or reserves.
Belize has the longest barrier reef in the Western and Northern hemispheres.
The two tallest buildings in Belize, one at Caracol and one at Xunantunich, date back more than 1,000 years.
Belize is thought to have the largest population of manatees in the world.
Belize is the only country in Central America with English as the official language.
Belize has fewer than 400 miles (640 km) of paved roads.
The names of two of the four major highways in Belize officially changed in 2012. Western Highway is now George Price Highway and Northern Highway is Philip Goldson Highway.
The expanse of Selva Maya (Maya Forest), which Belize shares with Guatemala and Mexico, covers some 9,600 square miles (25,000 square km), the largest block of tropical forest north of the Amazon Basin.
At the height of the Mayan civilization, Belize may have had a population approaching 1 million people, about three times the population of the country today.
Belize is the only country in Central America without a border on the Pacific Ocean.
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