Jungle Gardens

of Avery Island!  I did not know about this Jungle Gardens and I suspect that few others are into this well kept secret.  Avery Island is where Tabasco pepper sauce has been made for 125 years.  But there is more!!  The island is actually a salt dome that extends 8 miles beneath the earth's surface and the protruding part that we see, which rises about 165 feet above sea level, is home to one of the most beautiful sanctuaries.  When you arrive at the entrance gate to Avery Island you may choose to tour the Tabasco factory, which we did, or you can tour the Jungle Gardens or both!  We did both.  The fee is a mere token in exchange for the pleasures of photographing this beautiful spot.

 Spanish moss on a dead oak tree.

Spanish moss on a dead oak tree.

 While it is called a 'jungle' the acreage is far from that in reality.  Their are large spaces of mowed grass, intentional planting and man-made lagoons.

While it is called a 'jungle' the acreage is far from that in reality.  Their are large spaces of mowed grass, intentional planting and man-made lagoons.

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 This is the smooth top of a wetland area.  Just inches beneath the apparent grassy surface is water.

This is the smooth top of a wetland area.  Just inches beneath the apparent grassy surface is water.

 There are islands of floating flowers. You see them in the photograph above. These appear like they might be some variety of lily.

There are islands of floating flowers. You see them in the photograph above. These appear like they might be some variety of lily.

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 The layout of the Gardens is such that you can drive around and see the whole thing without ever getting out of your car.  I imagine that is good for people who are afraid of the alligators whose presence is clearly posted on signs along the route.  But, there are also short hikes that are shown on the map (a bit away from the lagoons).  We found that getting out of the car was essential for getting the best photographs.

The layout of the Gardens is such that you can drive around and see the whole thing without ever getting out of your car.  I imagine that is good for people who are afraid of the alligators whose presence is clearly posted on signs along the route.  But, there are also short hikes that are shown on the map (a bit away from the lagoons).  We found that getting out of the car was essential for getting the best photographs.

 It is impossible in Louisiana to keep alligators out of a body of water.  We did not see any larger than this four foot juvenile.  I suspect that as they grow larger they are trapped and moved to places not frequented by humans.

It is impossible in Louisiana to keep alligators out of a body of water.  We did not see any larger than this four foot juvenile.  I suspect that as they grow larger they are trapped and moved to places not frequented by humans.

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 A short hike leads to a statue of Buddha.  It was surrounded by a glass enclosure and not photogenic up close.

A short hike leads to a statue of Buddha.  It was surrounded by a glass enclosure and not photogenic up close.

 Picnic tables were placed in just the right places and reminded me that I was getting hungry!

Picnic tables were placed in just the right places and reminded me that I was getting hungry!

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 This tree is over 300 years old and is called the Cleveland Oak, named after President Grover Cleveland.  In 1891, Cleveland traveled to Louisiana to stay with his friend Joe Jefferson, the actor of Rip Van Winkle fame, who owned Jefferson Island.  He visited Avery Island at that time and is reputed to have hugged this old oak tree.  So, it was named in his honor.

This tree is over 300 years old and is called the Cleveland Oak, named after President Grover Cleveland.  In 1891, Cleveland traveled to Louisiana to stay with his friend Joe Jefferson, the actor of Rip Van Winkle fame, who owned Jefferson Island.  He visited Avery Island at that time and is reputed to have hugged this old oak tree.  So, it was named in his honor.

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 Bamboo is quick growing and can reach mature size in one year.  It is a commercial plant that grows well on the island.

Bamboo is quick growing and can reach mature size in one year.  It is a commercial plant that grows well on the island.

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 We did not see any snowy egrets on our trip through the jungle.  It is not the right time of year to spot them there.  This is a photograph of a picture shown in the Museum.  It is important because Edward McIlhenny, who created Jungle Gardens, is given credit for saving the snowy egret from extinction.  He built an aviary on the island and then captured and raised 8 wild egrets.  After they had raised hatches and were ready to migrate he turned them loose.  They returned in the spring.  Now, every spring, thousands return to the rookery on Jungle Island.

We did not see any snowy egrets on our trip through the jungle.  It is not the right time of year to spot them there.  This is a photograph of a picture shown in the Museum.  It is important because Edward McIlhenny, who created Jungle Gardens, is given credit for saving the snowy egret from extinction.  He built an aviary on the island and then captured and raised 8 wild egrets.  After they had raised hatches and were ready to migrate he turned them loose.  They returned in the spring.  Now, every spring, thousands return to the rookery on Jungle Island.

We visited the island when one would expect the least photographic interest.  This was not the time to spot migratory birds and the thousands of azaleas of many varieties that bloom in the spring.  There is a large collection of camellias representing 600 varieties from all over the world.  They were not blooming either.  If we are ever in this area in the spring we will most certainly go back to see the 'whole' deal.