What makes a plant or animal Cuban? Some flora and fauna are endemic to Cuba, that is, found only in Cuba in their natural state. Others are naturalized, having come to Cuba originally from other countries.

Some endemic species, like the Cuban sloth and the guacamayo (Cuban macaw), are now extinct. Indian tribes, including the Ciboney and the Taínos, introduced various plants, including yuca, peppers, corn and tobacco. The Taínos also cultivated fruits, such as papaya, guava and mamey. The arrival of the Spanish in the fifteenth century brought many crops to Cuba from the Old World, such as rice, citrus fruits and sugarcane.

Over the next 150 years, colonial activity in the Caribbean by other European countries resulted in extensive illustration of flora and fauna of Cuba. As a result, the world began to know and admire the flora and fauna of the Cuba not through Spanish works, but through publications in other European languages.