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The Jungle Gardens of Avery Island

Iberia Parish, Louisiana, USA (March 2007)

Also be sure to see the Travel/Geography Blog

The Jungle Gardens cover more than 250 lushly landscaped acres on Louisiana's Avery Island. It is part of the McIlhenny property where the world-famous Tabasco® Sauce originates, and is open to the public for a modest fee. The gardens arose from the visionary efforts of Edward Avery McIlhenny to establish a nature preserve more than a century ago.

Avery "Island" is actually a bit of a misnomer. It's the tip of huge salt dome set in the midst of surrounding marshland. It's not technically an island but it has that same feeling because it contains some of the only high, firm ground in the middle of a very large swamp.

Tabasco Jungle Gardens

Jungle Gardens Landscaping

Avery Island, Louisiana

This remarkably landscaped vista can be found near the lagoon on the northeast part of the property. Spanish moss drapes from ancient outstretched branches. Notice that every blade of grass has been trimmed and groomed, including around and under the large fallen tree in the foreground. The gardeners pay meticulous attention to every detail within the preserve.


Large Live Oak Tree

Cleveland Oak

This very large Live Oak tree on Avery Island was named for President Grover Cleveland, and it stands at the northwest corner of the Jungle Gardens preserve. Pres. Cleveland served in the late 19th Century so the tree must be extremely old if it were already remarkable enough to name at that time. I don't know the physical dimensions of this specimen but they must be massive. A person standing next to the tree trunk looks insignificant.


Walking Path

Walking Path through the Forest

A gentle flagstone path through the Jungle Gardens led away from the Cleveland Oak. In the distance appeared an arched walkway over a lagoon. If this image brings to mind visions of Asia it is no coincidence, because...


Pagoda

Jungle Gardens Pagoda

The pathway led to a peaceful pagoda containing a Buddha that was imported from China by E. A. McIlhenny. The pathway is actually on the far right side of this photograph. What looks like a road going down the middle of the photograph is actually a lagoon. The brown coloring is caused by aquatic plants that remain dormant during winter. Some of them were just starting to turn green during our visit.


Alligator in the Wild

An Alligator Prowls a Lagoon

The Jungle Gardens provide sanctuary for native wild animals. Alligators are plentiful and signs warn visitors to be careful. This guy was about four feet long. Others were harder to spot because they hid among the aquatic vegetation or remained below water except for their eyes poking above the surface. Sometimes they could be seen with a little patience and careful observation. Undoubtedly many others remained successfully out of sight as they watched the human interlopers.


Nesting Egrets

Egrets Build their Nests in Bird City

A large pond known as Bird City sat along the southern edge of the preserve. This was the end result of E. A. McIlhenny's extensive efforts to revitalize the snowy egret population. Egret feathers served as fashionable accessories on women's hats in the late 19th Century and led nearly to the birds' extinction. Mr. McIlhenny set aside a portion of the Jungle Gardens to provide an undisturbed nesting spot where thousands of egrets now flock. We saw egrets flying to these artificial roosts with twigs in their beaks as they built their springtime nests.

You may also be interested in visiting my Tabasco® Factory page.